Thoughts on our changing role…. (Originally posted 10/4/11)
Teachers are individuals and as individuals bring their own goals, experiences and perspectives to the profession. Around the nation, more and more of us are feeling compelled to discuss our profession, and our individual roles in it.
What troubles me is that these conversations are limited to rare faculty room exchanges and blogs. These conversations should be taking place in schools on a regular basis as part of professional development.
A school environment is frequently a reflection of the present administration. For a number of reasons, teachers often are asked to, and agree to, adopt programs and attitudes that the present administration puts forward…regardless of their own knowledge of the community, the students and pedagogy. If the new principal believes in an emotionally-distant ‘professional’ approach, then the teachers are required to “perform” under these guidelines. If the new administrator is a proponent of a particular character ed program then the staff is required, without discussion and often without sufficient education and training, to “perform” under this approach. Rarely does the administration choose his or her “pet project” based on his or her knowledge of the school and community.
Teachers complain, however, this can be EXACTLY what we do, or are required to do, in the classroom. Curriculum is written years before students enter the room. Lessons are planned so that all students are literally on the same page, not so that we can meet students where they are.
I realize that some folks are tired of these articles. They perceive that teachers are whining. The truth is that we are aching to be heard. The other truth is that our students are hurting even more than we are in this regard. Now that we finally have a bit of the media’s ear, we should be also listening very closely to the signals that our students give us about school.
Ten years ago, even if all else failed, we could count on the fact that we knew more about a subject than our students…and that they had to rely on us to get that information. That is no longer true. Any information at all is at the world’s fingertips. We cannot expect to be respected as fonts of information and knowledge. We no longer have that role and it’s time to realize that.
What students need are teachers that can and do help them to find, sort, understand, assimilate and apply the incredible amount of information that is out there….in ways that they cannot do themselves.
The only way to do that is to do everything appropriately possible to know our students. It is a new role for us. It can be an uncomfortable one. There are no clear “rules” yet. It requires communication between teachers, students, parents and administration….communication we haven’t developed the skills for yet.
Truth is, if we combine our life experience and knowledge of how the brain works, with our students’ youth and drive (yes…they are driven…just maybe not about our subject areas), parents’ desire for the best for their children and administration’s desire to create effective schools, we just might have a chance.
Thank you for the chance to share my thoughts,
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