Friday, May 28, 2010

Slow Down!

Do you feel like I do that we are rushing through each day and rushing through our lives? There are days where I just want to stop, take a deep breath, and rest a moment before returning to the hectic pace. But the question I'm asking myself and those of you reading this blog is – why aren't we slowing down and taking deep breaths every day and all through the day?

When we are rushed I believe we often make poor decisions, not necessarily bad, just not the best possible decisions. It's like when you're rushing down the street on your way to an important meeting that starts in five minutes. You are so focused on getting to the meeting that you may not notice you are cutting in front of cars, almost knocking down pedestrians, and making hairpin turns onto the street or into the parking lot. I think this happens to us in the school as well. We are so focused on getting to the next big milestone in the curriculum, in the testing, and in the school year that we react instinctually rather than thoughtfully.

Think about that for a minute. When we are rushed we react instinctually rather than thoughtfully. What does this mean for our interactions with students? Do we quickly hand out consequences rather than slowing down to find out exactly what happened? Do we label and lump students into an unofficial "group" based on first impressions? Do we offer vague praise or an absent-minded pat-on-the-back when offering feedback? Do we ignore individual student concerns and issues in our rush to address the needs of the whole class?

I believe very strongly that our interactions with students help each one to develop a sense of identity and self-worth. The time we take and the relationships we make send important messages and have lasting impressions on our students. What message are we portraying when we rush through our curriculum? What message are we portraying when we rush through our assessment? What message are we portraying when we rush through our interactions with students and parents?

I think these questions are something as teachers we all need to think about. Then we need to take a deep breath and slow down.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Teaching: What it Means to be a Professional

The other day in the grocery store I overheard two moms talking about their local school. As usual, being an educator, my ears perked up, and I guiltily admit that I started to eavesdrop on their conversation. One of the mothers was explaining to the other how she could never get in touch with her child's teacher to discuss concerns because the school was always closed so early. The other mom agreed and they earnestly began a diatribe against teachers. Steadily my ears got hotter and hotter and I threatened to step into the conversation when one of the mothers threw out, "Those people have the easiest job. They get there at eight and leave at three, take summers and all holidays off and get paid for it! No wonder education is going downhill."

At that point I had two levels of thought going on in my head. On the first level I was furious with these mothers who had not the slightest clue of what is really involved in quality teaching. However, at the same time, I had to remind myself that I did not personally know the teachers under discussion by these two. I can only speak for my own self and my level of dedication and professionalism. The two moms ended their conversation and headed off in two different directions. I, however, stood rooted to the spot as emotions and thoughts roiled around in my brain.

This conversation against teachers started a chain reaction of reflection for me in regards to teaching as a profession. Obviously these two mothers were of the opinion that teaching is merely a job and a part-time one at that. What gave them this impression? Also, why do so many in the community at large have these same feelings about teaching? Oh, anyone who hears I'm a teacher will say to me, "Teachers have the toughest job. I admire you for what you do." But everyday conversations, media reports, and even certain legislations, tend to belie that comment. Why is it that teaching is considered more of a job (or glorified babysitters) than a profession? As educators we consider ourselves to be professionals, yet others in the community rarely give us the same designation. Why is that?

Although historically there are many reasons for the current attitude towards teachers, I believe that it is in no small part related to our own behaviors and attitudes about teaching. How then, can we demonstrate that we are professionals? I believe that being a professional educator requires:

  • A professional appearance and demeanor
  • A sense of dedication
  • Continued training
  • Collaboration with others


What do you think?