Sunday, September 11, 2016
Educators have to answer to many different groups of people. Sometimes it will make your head spin if you try to please them all. It is a feat an expert juggler would find challenging. Many of these group want outcomes that are polar opposites. It is said that teachers have to make more decisions in a work day than any other profession, many times in a split second. It is no wonder many leave the profession after a few years.
First we have the school administration. The focus of the administration is how the whole school functions and how it looks to the public. Teachers must be mindful of keeping the school at a "high functioning" level. This includes ensuring good test scores on standardized assessments, differentiating instruction for the multitude of learning styles in the classroom, handling student discipline, meeting standards, and attending meetings and training sessions. Each of these requirements are met with varying degrees of success by individuals according to their strengths. However, keep in mind, the school administration is counting on you to do all of these things in order to be considered "adequate" at your job.
We are also judged by the other teachers and staff members. The judgement of the faculty targets your ability. When a student moves from one grade to the next, you know they are judging you on the students you once had. Questions such as "why doesn't this student know how to do x?" or "how can these two children be put into the same learning environment?" come to mind as a teacher is trying to normalize her classroom. The faculty also looks at your success with types of students. "She did so well with the child who was behind in that subject, let's put all the kids who are failing that into her class?" These types of questions can disadvantage teachers by stacking the deck against them.
The parents of your students can be particularly judgemental. Of course their child is the focus of their need to give the teacher advice and criticism. I have had parents tell me they never get any communication from our class when the truth is, we update our website every Friday, we send home a text reminding them to check it, and we often send hard copies as well. I have had parents tell me that their"gifted" child should not have to turn in any assignments. I have met parents of second graders who are struggling with reading tell me their child was meant for other creative endeavors and should not have to learn to read. Many parents make excuses for children instead of holding high expectations of the child. Parents expect that you see their child as the most special one, and will instantly know what this child needs to be successful.
Let's not forget the students. Their focus is their immediate needs. "I need help, a pencil, a band aid, a drink, a tissue, another math paper, the bathroom..." The list is endless. As educators we must answer questions, take care of needs, keep students safe, and on task. Even when they feel sick, are hungry, scared of something, dealing with the death of a pet, having a disagreement with another student, or just having a bad day. We are expected ro have all the answers, stay focused on the common core, and make everything better. Not always an easy job.
Our most stern critic and judge is often ourselves. We stay up late and spend time over weekends and vacations, planning, evaluations, strategizing, buying supplies, reading the latest journals, meeting with parents, and thinking about our kids. And they are "our kids." We care about the well being of each and every one of them. We often replay our days wondering if we had the right words to help and inspire the future leaders of the world. We often think that we must find new ways to reach these precious lives.
The truth is, this is a balancing act. If we look at all these different factions as part of our team we begin to work together to benefit the students. All of these groups come as part of the package in education. Don't try to go it alone. Use all of the judges on this court, learn who you can count on to be in your corner. Finally, take care of yourself. You have to come to the classroom as a functioning adult. Do what you love, nourish your soul, open your mind to new things, and above all remember, the most teachable moments may not be on the lesson plan.