I haven’t had my own classroom of students for a few years, but I always try to remember what it was like to be a teacher, and always try to start from that viewpoint. It bothers me when I see posts or videos talking about how so many teachers are not willing to do something better for their kids, when every single person that has “embraced change” was at some point doing things previously that they would question now.
I talk a lot about the importance of using technology to enhance learning and relationships, but I didn’t always believe it was important. It took a lot of suggestions and support from others before I started doing things differently in my practice; it did not happen overnight. That being said, just like so many other educators, I still have a lot of room to grow in so many areas. There are so many aspects of education that are important to the development of our kids, and teachers are juggling so many things that they have to do, many of which have little to do with teaching in a classroom, but are admin tasks. Instead of wondering “why aren’t people moving faster?”, we have to take a step back and get rid of some of the assumptions that people make about educators. Below are a few that stick out in my mind.
1. Educators are not willing to embrace change.
I think for many educational leaders, this is an easy way out. It puts the blame others instead of looking at something internal. Simply telling someone that they should change their practice, and it reminds me of how sometimes people are just bad at selling change in the first place. I have seen a lot of people talk about the importance of change, but by the end of listening to them, you feel terrible about what you haven’t done as opposed to inspired to do something better.
\Making people feel like crap is not the key to getting them to do something different and will not lead to sustainable change. What is important is that people experience something different themselves, but also that they are valued for what they do. If an educator knows that the change is something that will be better for kids, they are more likely to start doing something different.
There are so many things that an educator has to do, so I think it is actually good that many of them are critical about what they put their efforts into. Have you ever had an initiative in your school that has come and gone and shown no impact on students? Not all change is good, but I believe if an educator can see the value in it for their students, they are more likely to embrace it.
2. Educators don’t want what is best for kids.
Educators know that they are going into a very giving profession, where the pay is traditionally not that great. The majority of them want to make a difference. It is cool when some students get opportunities like Innovation Week, but sometimes kids show up with no food in their stomachs, and making it through their day is a huge accomplishment. Doing the “innovative ideas” might not be possible for that kid. There are so many variables to our day as educators, and teachers are rarely ever just teachers. They take care of kids in so many different ways because of they didn’t, there is no way some kids would be successful in any aspect of their lives. If every classroom and group of students looked exactly the same, teaching would be easy, although in my opinion, not very rewarding. The diversity is what makes education so great. That being said, most educators are doing what they believe is best for their kids. No one wakes up in the morning wanting to be terrible at their job. We need to always remember that.
3. That all educators do is teach.
It disheartened me to see an educator friend, who is brilliant and I would want teaching my own children, talk about how they had to get another job to make ends meet. I have heard this from several people. To think that a person who would have to work two jobs (one of them serving children all day) would not only have the time or the energy to learn new things, is pretty presumptuous. Just being a teacher, takes a lot out of you. We can’t assume that all of our efforts go simply into teaching. There are so many other aspects of our lives.
It is not only the cases where teachers are juggling another job, but also other aspects of their life. Many people have so many things going on in their lives, yet we assume that so many should put all of their time and energy into becoming the greatest teacher of all time. Some people are lucky if they can make it through the day because of whatever is going on in their lives. This is not only in education, but in all professions. We want to be great friends, partners, parents, siblings, or whatever, and sometimes teaching needs to take a little bit of a backseat to the other things in life. Does this mean a teacher doesn’t care about what they do? Not at all. But I am firm believer that I would rather have a teacher that is focused on being a whole person, than simply focusing on being a teacher. Personally, some days it is/was hard for me to get up and do my job because of other things going on in my life. We always have to remember that there is more to a teacher than being a teacher.
Do some teachers not fall in line with what I have shared? Absolutely. There are bad people in every profession. I guess my point is that when we make generalized assumptions about others in our profession we are already starting in a deficit. Trusting someone is doing the best they can before they prove it to you, is an important part of leadership. We have to give trust before we earn trust in many cases. Assuming the worst of others will not get us to grow as a profession.