(originally posted 3/28/10)
Right now teachers are in a tough spot. We are being flattened by the expectations and criticism of administration, parents, the state, the government, the media and the public. What we really want to respond to is the needs of our students, but blindfolded, hand-tied and foot-bound by checklists and paperwork, we often feel trapped, immobilized, crushed. The image I carry around is that of a car crushed into a little cube in the junkyard and treated like scrap, yet being expected to function as a limousine carrying important dignitaries.
It is exhausting, demeaning, frustrating and frankly, impossible.
What will keep us afloat, or drag us down, in these difficult times is each other.
It may be time to approach our interactions at school like we do our Facebook pages. The folks that whine and complain, point out all of the difficulties and pull us down with them need a Delete button right now. Not an Erase button….they are still our colleagues. But a Delete button, that lets us go and visit them from time to time, when we want to……rather than listen to their obviously and continously negative status day after day.
What we need to do, and are rarely equipped to do, is to seek out our teaching soulmates.
We have to do it ourselves. Although most schools have mentor programs, they are designed to match subject area teachers to assist with curriculum and alignment. They are NOT designed to match teachers who will feed each other professionally with inspiration and a shared passion for teaching. How do we do we find those people?
1) Listen to the students. Whom do they talk about with respect? Are there teachers whose activities they are still talking about with enthusiasm when they get to your room? These are teachers that you may want to get to know better as educational partners.
2) Look around the building. Who is displaying student work? Who is inviting folks to observe student displays, inventions, competitions?
3) Listen in on classes as you walk by. I can promise you that incredible things are happening in your building. We just rarely have the time to notice. Pick one period a week where you take just 5 minutes and walk around the building and take it in.
4) Think about the club advisers. Who is doing cool stuff with the students? Activities that resonate with your approach to education?
5) When you are at a conference day at school, sit near people you think may think like you do in order to get to know them better.
In some buildings, it is actually AGAINST the school’s culture to display enthusiasm for learning new things and becoming a better teacher. If that is the case in your school, believe me, you are not alone. I have seen it in many places. I also know that within those schools are deep pockets of dedicated teachers who, in their own corners of the world, are reading journals, keeping blogs, joining professional organizations and changing the world.
There is someone in your building that you can connect with as an “alma gemela” (twin soul!). It may not be a teacher. It may be a guidance counselor, a secretary, a custodian, a cafeteria worker, an SRP. But I can promise you that fostering that professional friendship may keep you sane over the next few years….and be an incredible blessing in your life.
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