Monday, October 21, 2019

Discouraged Teachers

One of my favorite parts of the teaching/learning job is growing programs in ways that are timely, research-based, and student-friendly. To grow programs is exciting and positive making the learning environment dynamic, student-centered, and energized in successful ways.

There's nothing more discouraging for teachers like me when the will to innovate, develop, and teach better is met with barriers--barriers that block new ideas, innovation, and growth. In many ways those barriers feel like a loud expletive aimed in your direction that essentially says, "Lowly teacher do as you are told, don't think, don't create, don't develop--instead teach as a rule-following robot, not an educated thinker." When those "expletives" are thrown in your direction, you are demeaned--it's like putting a pin in a balloon, and that discouragement moves throughout your day like a lead weight.

This has happened to me countless times as an educator, and it is one of the worst aspects of being a teacher. Teachers are too often treated as simpletons in oppressive, demeaning and disrespectful ways. Some educators never expect to be treated with respect and worry little about this. Others give up, and a few keep fighting to get the respect, autonomy, and support they need to grow programs in countless wonderful ways.

In the past, the barriers have been thrown in my direction when I wanted to replace old fashion desks with wonderful collaborative tables. Few would support this timely direction. I continued the advocacy, and finally about five years after my initial request and many more proposals and pleas, a parent group supported the change. Similar barriers were thrown my way when colleagues and I wanted to change to a collaborative teaching model at the grade level and again when we wanted to join forces with a local environmental organization to foster a real-world, local environmental science program. There are many more instances when support was non-existent for teacher-led projects that had solid research to back them up. In most cases, after lots and lots of advocacy, the projects did come to fruition and success. Imagine how much more successful each project would have been if so much time wasn't wasted on trying to convince so many leaders about a project's merit or value. In every case where ideas were unblocked, it was typically people from outside of the school system that created the change by supporting the initiatives with outside funding, time, and ideas.

Today marks one more timely idea that is being blocked--a worthy idea with a solid research-based foundation and plenty of good support. I've already contributed many hours towards advocating for this project and inviting colleagues to take part, but as usual, there's little support from many administrators--leaders who are reluctant to support teacher leadership and seem to subscribe to the teacher-as-robot management style instead.

What's a teacher to do?

Yes, I'm discouraged. I'll think on the next steps. Teaching is often an oppressive job that puts educators in the place of unsupported servant rather than teacher leader--this is the worst part of the job.