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Thursday, June 22, 2017

Moving Beyond a Discouraging Last Day

I teach in a wonderful school. The educators give 200% in time, effort, creativity, research, and care. Our students are happy and typically skip down the halls. The parents are supportive. There's lots of smiles and cheer, deep learning, and success. It's generally a good place to teach and learn.

Yet today, on the last teacher day of school, it was very discouraging. We spent a long time talking about cabinet orders--there's been numerous emails exchanged about the cabinets. Cabinets have been proposed and denied. In the end, there is one cabinet choice that appears acceptable, and that cabinet will be filled with supplies mostly chosen by administrators. The cabinets seemingly paid for by extra dollars from the after school program will house materials for school, after school, and summer school. I estimate that there's been about 100 hours or more collectively spent on the cabinet discussion/research when in fact there's been little to no teacher voice and choice in the matter. In hindsight, it seems like the administrators should have just told teachers that they are ordering cabinets and the cabinets will be placed in our classrooms. That would have saved a lot of time and frustration.

Also, there was a discussion about the order in which to teach standards. Administration essentially told me that it's my job to follow the order directed by them. I believe in responsive teaching which means teaching the standards in ways that match the children that come to your class. I like to order the standards in meaningful, engaging, intersecting ways that build excitement and capacity for learning. But to keep my job, I have to follow the rules with no real professional voice or choice.

Further, at the end of the meeting, teachers were essentially chided. I'm not really sure what we were criticized about as I didn't understand the references made, but it wasn't a positive ending message.

This is all very disconcerting as I am a big fan of distributive leadership, flattened hierarchy, teacher leadership, learning communities, responsive teaching, and researched-based development and growth, but today it seemed so old fashion as about 50 women sat in a circle and listened to ridicule and choices made for them with little to no chance for discussion, exchange, or debate.

What's a teacher to do?

To keep my job, I'll follow the many rules and dictates set for teaching and learning, and find ways to serve and support students with as much care, creativity, and kindness as I can within the tight boundaries set. I'll continue to advocate for change in respectful ways that I can find as I continue to think that some of our mandates mirror old fashion ideas about what works in classrooms and schools rather than new research and methods for powerful, passionate teaching and learning.

I will also continue my research, create a warm and inviting classroom environment, and support my talented and dedicated colleagues who give so much of themselves each and every day to teach children well.