Sunday, June 5, 2011

Caring about teachers

I was pointed to this opinion piece:
 http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/04/opinion/04zimmerman.html?_r=1&emc=eta1

I was appalled by the first quote. Clearly that person was more than angry. She stopped caring. Whatever her reasons, she should cease being a teacher. Because after that quote she wasn't going to be saving anyone in the classroom either. The rest of the quotes from teachers were just free speech. Hardly can anyone say that privacy was violated by exposing names. I guess an argument can be made that if you know the teacher then you can figure out the students. But the statements are too general. And general statements like those were not made in haste. They were made after comparison to other classes. And if they weren't, then they were quick generalizations stated such that a teacher can realize the challenges that lay ahead for this class.*

The conclusion of the opinion piece was spot on. Watch what you say and to whom. Complain to the people who care about you the most, because those are the people who should know your specific frustration. But let the rest of us hear your general plight, the general concerns you have about the state of education, the state of our students, and what you think we need to hear to address your grievances. My hope is that the dialogue does not get lost internally and that the teachers are supported by their colleagues and principals and school boards. But the reality is that speaking your mind just gets you in trouble. And social media lets everyone know what you said, when you said it, and it never gets deleted. Once its out there ... its out there. Then you have to go on a PR tour to defend your comments.

The problem isn't people speaking their minds (most of the time). The problem is that a lot of people can not put themselves in your shoes (e.g. lack of empathy). Nor can they take criticism without getting offended. There is also an issue of "it's someone else's problem".  Like Teachers. I give you my kid and you teach them. Its your job. The tendency to segregate the roles can lead to failure. Teachers assist learning. They expect active participation. It is not passive. It is not passive for parents either. 

Forcing teachers to be passive and under strict control doesn't lead to successful outcomes. Teaching requires taking risks. It also means letting teachers have control so they can take those risks. Like telling parents they need to step up and stop making excuses, just as much as they need to tell their students the same. I just hope they allow themselves to hear that message.

I doubt I am being eloquent here. But we should always be on the side of our caring teachers while supporting the students. And we should be really concerned if our teachers stop caring.

*Yeah I know. Sounds like I am making excuses. Perhaps. But I know that frustration. I have complained too. But it needed to be said for my benefit and for my students. Not as an insult for those lazy, whiny students ... it was the truth. Some of them admitted as much. Some of them gave up, stopped doing required work and hoped that by persevering they would pass. They became passive. Some of them passed or excelled when I cited their passivity to their faces. They knew that passivity wouldn't work. They appreciated the honesty and that I cared.