Super Teacher's Job is Never Done!

Super Teacher's Job is Never Done!
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Teaching is the profession that teaches all the other professions. ~ Author Unknown

My goal is to reveal one teacher's humble journey of self-reflection, critical analysis, and endless questioning about my craft of teaching and learning alongside my middle school students.

"The dream begins with a teacher who believes in you, who tugs and pushes and leads you to the next plateau, sometimes poking you with a sharp stick called 'truth'." ~ Dan Rather

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Going Beyond the Call of Duty

Is there such a thing as being an "overcommitted teacher?" Can too much of a good thing be bad for you? Is there a point at which we care too much? These questions cross my mind frequently, particularly at this fragile time of the school year when standardized testing preparations and external stressors cause many educators to reach their personal and emotional limits.

Regardless of the profession one has chosen, I firmly believe in one's right to a safe, supportive, clean, and pleasant environment to work in. Each person should be able to feel comfortable and carry out their duties with limited negative external influences. Well, I happen to teach in a building that is over 30 years old whose temperature tends to vary drastically depending on the day and season. Lately, the entire building has been an ice box, especially in the basement (where I used to teach). These extreme conditions prompted one colleague to write on email on the school's listserv, "I know we can’t do much about the fact that this is an old building with an old heating system, but please can we have some heat in the downstairs science rooms? It would just make coming to work a much more pleasant experience if I could feel my extremities. Please???" This is not the first plea for heat, better air quality, or comfort on the part of our staff, and it will certainly not be the last. Frankly, it is depressing.

Aside from room temperature and air quality control issues, teachers in my building also feel a sense of desperation about student discipline and their own safety. Despite sending referrals for student physical and verbal abuse (towards themselves and staff members), rarely is anything truly done or followed through with these students. The easier response is for the administration to push these concerns "under the rug," smile, and say we are doing the best we can with these students. Are we? I really do not think so -- for the students or for ourselves. 

How on earth can teachers be expected to give their "all" to their students every day in the classroom if their fundamental needs and rights as human beings are not first honored? How can we expect them to teach the neediest students without the help, support, and follow-through of the school leadership? Why are teachers isolated and left "out to dry" rather than genuinely helped and supported? Personally, I am thankful that I have established a solid and honest enough relationship with our principal where I can now directly address these real school and staff concerns with her -- and feel like she is genuinely listening and caring about what I have to say. I had the opportunity for one such honest and open conversation this week, and it will be telling to see how she moves forward and decides to address her staff's dire concerns.

Believe me, I understand the pressure and myriad responsibilities on any administrator's plate today, but there is no excuse for any of their teachers to feel unsafe walking down the halls or in their own classrooms. Teachers in my building already go beyond the call of duty with their students every day. Now, it is time for administration to do the same and return the simple favor of mutual respect, communication, and follow-through to their professional teachers. And it can all start with working with the building services team to ensure teachers are not freezing to the point of numbness when teaching.

1 comment:

  1. Wow Kay!! Love your strong voice supporting all teachers. So wonderfully and thoughtfully written. You shed light on an aspect of 'no child left behind' that has been swept under the rug! Teaching conditions and solid consequence systems are the foundation that high academic teaching sits upon!! It's time to look at the big picture! :) So inspiring!