This reflection is inspired by a culmination of things, but most recently a conversation with an aspiring teacher, and this recent post by @TonySinanis. The aspiring teacher approached me for some insight on education, stating her enthusiasm is being thwarted by many teachers she talks with. Tony Sinanis’ post highlights some major obstacles in today’s educational landscape. I’d like to add to Tony’s list by posing the questions that follow, and because I try not to ever share problems without offering suggestions to help improve or resolve them, I will share some suggestions.
Great list, Tony! Unfortunate, but right on. To add to your list, I offer the following questions: Educators, can we look the people we “govern” in the eyes with pride? When we make decisions, shortly thereafter do we physically engage with the people we’ve impacted? When we implement action and initiatives, do we stand among those who have to carry out in the trenches…while they do it? Do we roll up our sleeves and pitch in?
Teachers, do we make ourselves available to parents by greeting kids on the playground to begin the day, and walking kids physically out of the building at dismissal? Do we attend extracurricular functions? Can we make ourselves available to the parents of the kids we impact everyday, and do so with pride?
Building administrators, can we walk the halls and classrooms of our schools and look kids and staff in the eyes, and do so with pride? Can we comfortably attend staff functions? Can we walk into the staff lounge without it immediately going dead silent? Can we approach students without them asking, “What? What did I do?” Can we make ourselves available to parents on the playground before and after school? Do we attend extracurricular functions? Do kids and parents see and know us well enough to identify us?
District administrators, do you visit your school buildings? Do staff know who you are by face–and name, title, and responsibilities, for that matter? Can you attend school functions (even during the school day) and look staff, kids, and parents in the eye with pride? Do you roll up your sleeves and help carry out the things you direct others to do?
Unfortunately, these questions may make many educators uneasy, as they know decisions they make are not ones with which they can engage with the impacted parties with pride. These people negatively impact school communities, through direct and indirect toxic relationships. These are the people and the environments that can make it feel as though the majority of education is in this state. This is what is thwarting the aspiring teacher’s enthusiasm who came to see me. This is what overwhelms some educators into receding to the shadows and just getting by, doing enough to “maintain” for kids and parents, but not too much that might draw undesired attention from the toxic people.
To Tony’s question, “Now what?” Here are some suggestions.
#1 Remember why we are educators. If the reason we do what we do is anything other than KIDS, we must reconsider.
#2 Do not allow anyone or anything to back us off of why we do what we do. We know what’s best for our kids. If someone asking us to do something different cannot explain why–especially with a reason pertaining to increased positive impact on kids–we must stick to our guns. There should be no volume at which people can raise their voices at us, no threats they can make, that should ever back us off our stance for doing what’s best for kids. I understand this is easier said than done, especially considering potential consequences such as reprimands, disciplinary action, and potential termination. This is a quality of life decision only you can make.
#3 Connect with other student centered educators. All of us claim to be, but our actions differentiate us. We know who we want and need to surround ourselves with to push our explorative and learning boundaries as educators. Find them and connect with them.
#4 Persevere…patiently. Know that every day and every effort counts–and is needed. Our kids are counting on us. Our PLNs depend on us. Our parents need us.
If we are provided a student-centered reason with a request, decision making is easy: we move forward with the option with the greater positive impact on kids. There’s no room for ego in education. This is why student centered educators can comfortably do “rogue” things like have candid dialogue, hold one another accountable, and challenge each other’s thoughts. We do not take things personally, as education is about kids–not us. These are the educators who not only sincerely ask for, but demand feedback. These are the educators who continually evolve. These are the educators who do what’s best for kids.
Nothing worth doing is easy. And our kids’ learning, education, and success is worth doing.