Thursday, November 4, 2010

Should this even have to be said

It is amazing to me that as a profession, we have lost such a great deal of respect over the years. I don't know, maybe we never had it to begin with. My mother used to insist that when we did laundry we hung our underwear on the inside lines unseen by all but those who were doing the laundry. We were careful to have outer garments obscuring their view from anyone who might wonder by. We did this as some things should remain private she would tell us. Somethings you just don't talk about outside the family. Now I am not advocating for a major cover up of any kind, nor for any sort of deception of the public we serve, but I am extremely disappointed that it has become common practice for educators to bash educators. I am not talking about the multi-million dollar industry of what I would consider pseudo educators who are making their living off of bashing those in the trenches.
Now if you have read some of my contributions to sites like Dangerously Irrelevant, I too have been drawn into this type of behavior at times, but I think there is a fine line which I to have crossed between criticizing practices and flat out people bashing.
There is not an industry out there that doesn't have its fair share of characters. This includes not only those who are less than capable and those who are a down right disgrace to their organization. Then there are also those who are like most people, having their good and bad days. Those who are one day an inspiration to the students they work with and on other days say things that have ramifications equally as destructive.
I am extremely disappointed that as a profession, we often put each other down far more often than we say good things about one an other. This has become a cultural norm not only in the educational profession but in others as well. Just take a look at political campaigns. The spend very little time talking about what they will do to better our system, but rather spend millions of dollars decimating their opponent. I am not sure that I know anything about what the candidates stand for and are wanting to do, but I can tell you oodles of things about each and every mistake they have made and skeleton in their closet.
What we as educators need to understand that we are not in competition with each other but rather all on the same team. We need to spend more time communicating the strengths of our colleagues and leaders, rather than sharing every mistake they might make.
I ask the other teachers in our building to make 10 parent phone calls a week. I stress that these phone calls are to communicate both the struggles and the accomplishments of the students. In other words, don't just call parents to tell them about how big a pain in the ass their kid was today without being willing to call them on another day to tell them about how great their child did on a test, quiz or maybe even a kind word they extended a fellow student.
I am trying very hard to make this a positive post. One that will inspire positive communication and collective efficacy within our educational organizations and not just another teacher bashing rant.
These positive things happen in all schools, they just need to happen more often. The unethical behavior of running another teacher down to a parent or a student need to cease. We need to remember that those who live in glass houses best not cast stones. I assure you that we work in glass houses in education. People are eager to look in and when they see something they don't like cast a big stone rather than offer encouragement.

I spoke with a student in my office today who was complaining about a teacher. They were quick to point out all of the teacher's flaws, but had to be reminded of all of the wonderful things this teacher had done for her. I had to explain to her that she is not the only one who is stressed out by school. She had to be educated about the fact that teachers are people too and that they make mistakes, get upset and say things they don't really mean just like students do. No we hope that they do these things less often that the normal person would as we want all teachers to be encouraging, compassionate and self-sacrificing at all times. We want them to live their job and leave all their personal stresses at home. We want them to be flawless in what they do, how they treat people, how they grade work, etc.
I believe that sometimes we all forget that we are all just people. That we do have lives outside of the school day and should. That we may not get everything done in a day and should not be expected to stay up all night to ensure everything is perfectly planned for the next day.
It is easy to get sucked into the practice of bashing others, it is often easier to hang our undies on the inside and outside lines, but as a profession we do ourselves no favors in bashing our peers as in the end, we are all lumped together as teachers in the mind of those we serve.

1 comment:

  1. Teacher bashing does seem to be a rule instead of an exception. If you ask anyone a story about their educational past you usually get a story about a terrible teacher first and then if encouraged a story about a quality teacher. Just try it and see if your results differ . Perhaps it is the culture of education in the United States. I don’t think it is only in education but also in doctors, lawyers, car mechanics etc. This is why the political adds focus on the negatives, because that is what works for the public. How sad… So what can be done? Much like you have said ‘promote the positive’.. As an educational leader that seems to be a full time job . Now bashing educators personally I agree with your mother ( and mine as well). Private pieces of laundry need to be hung on the back or middle lines not in the front for all the neighbors to see. Goes with the saying my Mom would say ’ don’t air you dirty laundry in public’. It only makes you look bad in the end. There is a lot about education that I think needs to be changed. Big ideas need to be discussed and challenged. I will always question and debate educational issues in public and locally. This helps the discusion and brings new ideas to the surface. The private laundry issues need to be discussed within the confines of the professional community , school district, or one to one . Educators are family and need to help each other through the process not fight amongst themselves. I think in most cases this is doable. There are some cases when this does not work and then a choice needs to be made. Is it situation that is bigger and involves the educational process? If so what steps to bring it forward will build up the educational system or will it tear it down. I always try to build up . Even this step can be done in a positive way and not involve personal vendettas. Running teachers down to staff , parents, and teachers is never a good idea. A teacher is a teacher in the eyes of the public we need to put a good light on as many situations as possible if not take it in-house to deal with.
    On your comment that educators understand that it is not a competition and we are all on the same team I beg to disagree. Not now and not in the near future. Small school districts are competing to stay alive. Schools are closing. Teachers are competing for jobs,. Administrators are competing for jobs. Superintendents are competing for jobs. Everyone is competing for money, local, state,and federal. Unions are fighting for positions against non union members. Private schools want to score a piece of the money also. So…I do not see educators sticking together as a team instead they are all trying to sign on the team that will win. (Stay open, secure their job, keep their seniority, keep their insurance etc.). If one teacher quits due to mud slinging or is fired there will be someone to take that job, regardless lf the teacher who lost the job was treated unfairly. Life sucks but things go on.
    Yes I do agree that educators have lives outside of the school day. Done my share of staying up all night and plan on doing more. Is it fair…no. Do I expect it, to some degree, yes. So if I choose my kids first because they are sick or have a function to go to I hope that I will be forgiven. I know I will by the people who make a difference and that is all that matters.