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 13, 2010

Honeymoons, Harassment, & Hope: A Part of Every School Year?

I love the first days of school every year. After over two months of blissful, satisfying summer vacation, both the teachers and students re-enter the school building with smiles, hugs, and enthusiasm about what lies ahead. Usually, this honeymoon period only lasts for about a week or two, if we're lucky.

This year was no exception. After two years with the group called "the worst class the school has ever seen," I was ready for a change and a new batch of students. Boy, did that change come, and in a big way.  The first few weeks of school, my 120+ new students were among the most polite, respectful, and eager middle schoolers I had ever met. One student even thanked me for teaching him after his second class. Wow, I thought, this is going to be a great year!

Now, don't get me wrong. In many ways, my third year in my current school district in Maryland has been quite successful. I am much more comfortable with the curriculum I teach and, for the first time, feel like I have a solid handle on my classroom management repertoire. I work with a fabulous co-teacher and have an amazing mentor in my co-team leader, in addition to an incredibly creative, dedicated, and talented team of teachers. In those ways, I am more than blessed.

Perhaps what has continued to disturb me the most is the enormous disconnect between the administration and teachers in our building. The communication from the top down has become so horrible that sometimes, I cannot help but laugh at what plays out in our school.

Let me provide you with two vivid, recent examples. A few weeks ago, two students were accused of verbally harassing and hitting one of our administrators. Their punishment was 10 days suspension with a strong recommendation for expulsion. A few days later, a student, whom I have devoted a great deal of time and energy on, left his vocabulary warm-up sentences on the ground by his desk, which I found after he had left at the end of the school day. On this paper, he had written that he wanted "to homicide" me and that he felt "sadism" when messing with me. Nice, huh? Of course, the English teacher in me thought, "Darn it! Couldn't he have at least used the words correctly?!" In all seriousness, though, the sentences scared me. To make a long story short, an administrator brought the student and his mother into her office the following morning. His consequence? To write an apology note to me and serve after-school detention with an administrator for three days the following week.

What lesson have we learned here? Sadly, time and time again, I have seen countless examples of teachers being verbally and physically harassed and abused with the student(s) at fault receiving minimal -- if any -- meaningful consequences. However, if the same kind of abuse happens to an administrator, the child better start praying. Ultimately, only in those cases, the student is punished to full extent possible.

It may sound like I am griping here, but I think it's important for teachers to be much more respected as knowledgeable professionals and colleagues alongside administrators in their schools. As someone in my building who is supposed to be a liaison between the "top dogs" and teachers, I am often disheartened with the daily verbal and psychological abuse teachers have to endure. Oftentimes, their voices and needs are the LAST ones to taken seriously, IF they are heard at all.

Next week when I return to school on Tuesday, I am hoping for a second honeymoon of the school year.   With it, I want to have continued open and honest conversations with our school's leaders about the importance of SHOWING they respect, value, and understand their teachers' voices. I am hopeful that our current dismal situation can change, but I also am no longer a young, naive first-year teacher.

Regardless, if there is any way my profession can once again be respected and admired to the degree it deserves in this country, I, as an educator, cannot ever lose hope at the possibility of positive change and growth, on the part of my students, colleagues, and even our administration. People can change, and the road to such change begins with a single courageous conversation. The question is, who is willing to have one when it matters the most? I hope I am.

1 comment:

  1. Good luck with your second school-year honeymoon... VERY interesting to learn of another profession. Good luck to you and you definitely have my respect. Cheers and let me know which marathons your doing... One a month, too, how cool!