I realize that by writing this, I’ll probably alienate some people and I’m really okay with that because what I’m writing about today is my truth. And it’s truth based upon working with thousands of educators in hundreds of schools districts over the last 11+ years.
I’m writing this as an opportunity for all of us (including myself) to think about how we approach our profession and how we do the work that we do. I think we need an attitude and approach reboot. I really do.
I get the great opportunity to go to school districts and work directly with teachers on how to improve their literacy scores. We work all over the country with K-12 grade public schools. My work is to serve the teachers who serve the neediest kids in the country. What these teachers and kids deal with in terms of poverty and such is pretty intense. I recognize that.
I also have the opportunity to interact with a ton of people through social media. It’s been interesting, fun, funny and sometimes bothersome to be “out there” and public with the work I do. I get a ton of people thanking me for keeping things positive and a few ridiculous people who need to slam me. I don’t take it personally, but it does bother me. The slams bother me because they tell more (publicly online) about our profession than those who are rarin’ to go and super happy to be a teacher. The digs/slams/negative comments tend to appear most often. It’s weird like that.
The thing that I’m feeling right now is that our profession (yes, I’m generalizing here, but only because I see things as as generally true) is suffering. We are struggling.
We have a public opinion/perception issue.
We have an attitude issue.
We have a respect issue.
We have a ‘poor me’ issue.
And I see that it’s our fault.
Yeah- that’s the tough part. I think we’ve created a view of the teaching profession as ‘woe is me’ or ‘poor teachers have to put up with so much!’
Yep, we do put up with a ton. That’s for sure.
But we chose this. And we don’t have to stay if we are really as miserable as some educators seem to be. It may be difficult to leave the profession (with tenure, retirement, etc. – I get it!), but it’s not like we’re chained to our classrooms against our will.
To be completely honest, I have been embarrassed quite a few times to be a part of a profession where the negativity and bad-mouthing comes from within ranks. We bad-mouth ourselves. We bad-mouth the families we serve. We bad-mouth the kids. We bad-mouth the training. We bad-mouth the subs. We bad-mouth the data. We bad-mouth the district office. We bad-mouth the lesson planning.
Don’t get me wrong: I am not against venting, mild complaining or just plain frustration. I mean, this IS hard work.
But what I can’t even comprehend is why we do this in front of other people! These non-educators hear our complaining and then feel sorry for us! Where is the honor and respect when people feel sorry for you because you don’t make enough money, don’t get enough vacation, don’t have flexibility…
But most of all, what I get really frustrated and downright discouraged, at time, by is this: negativity transfers to kids. They are so susceptible to negativity.
The ironic thing? We can talk about how horribly the family life is of a student, but they overhear us crabbing about how overworked we are and how we don’t get paid enough for what we do. Does that make any sense?
So, I’ve really been thinking about this for a long time and want to share a solution. It doesn’t solve the challenges that we face as educators, but it helps keep everything in perspective a bit better.
I’d like to suggest that we act like our own kids are watching us. Like they are taking notes and are going to provide us with a report card about our behavior and attitude at the dinner table tonight.
When you’re at the training and it’s for math and you’re a reading teacher…are you showing your own kids what it’s like to be flexible and professional?
When you are dealing with a parent who, seemingly, doesn’t have any desire to help his child with homework…are you showing compassion even beyond what is necessary?
When you are in the staff room and someone is complaining a bit too long about the district office…are you staying out of the fray?
When you are totally overwhelmed and wondering whether you can actually get everything that needs to be done done…are you taking a deep breath, taking a walk around the track or calling a positive colleague to give you a boost?
When you choose to bring work home and spend time grading papers in the evenings while the family watches TV…are you grumbling all the way or staying focused on finishing the grading tasks so that you can go and snuggle with your family?
None of these suggestions mean that you have less work, better professional development, more time to teach or anything else that we wish that we could will into existence. After all, working hard, frustration and overwhelm is not unique to education.
But what CHOOSING CONTENTMENT will do is provide you a positive framework through which to deal with the challenges of teaching. Simultaneous to feeling better about teaching, non-educators will start to respect the work that we do because we are talking more positively about it.
Are you with me in trying to re-frame how our profession is viewed? I sure hope so.