November 20, 2010

A Message to all Teachers from one who knows - Part Three (Final)

Continued from last week:
Third, there is a fine line between being a students “friend” and being their “mentor/teacher.”  It is crucial that teachers are considered friendly without necessarily playing favorites or being “buddy buddy” with students.  A teacher needs to be fair and firm, especially when dispensing homework assignments, readings and calling on students in class and of course, discipline.  Perception unfortunately is oftentimes reality – whether it is in politics, the media or in the classroom.  If a teacher is perceived to be too friendly, either by their colleagues or by the students, that particular teacher has a major obstacle to over come.  This is not to imply that teachers need to adhere to the old school adage “don’t smile until after winter break.” 

This era of students have far less respect for teachers who present a “false front” than those teachers who are honest and show their true selves – in other words, keeping it real.  We as professionals should know where the line is.  Teachers should not have to defend their personal teaching style to their colleagues.  There should not be a riff between teachers who are considered “popular” and those who are not.  Instead of putting down, or condemning the “popular” teachers, find out what they do in their classroom.  Are they fair?  Do they hold students to a higher standard and as such the students respect them for raising the bar?  Does the teacher respect all students in the class and not just the “good” ones?  These questions and more should be discussed openly and honestly amongst colleagues and collaboratively between both veterans and newbies alike.

Finally, this time of year is tough.  Teachers are reaching (or have reached) the point of burnout.  The fall highs have almost been completely replaced by the winter blahs. Teachers immune defenses are down, more are starting to get sick with the flu and some, unfortunately after months of frustration, quit.  It is also the season where testing frenzy is fast approaching, and pre-testing begins in earnest and the “normal routine” of the the first semester will soon be replaced by “testing, testing, testing.”  Teaching is tough. 

In many parts of the country, it is a thankless job made more difficult by unfunded mandates forced upon us from the Department of Education both in Washington and local capitals.  Left alone, most teachers, in due time, would be excellent professionals who demonstrate pride in their profession.  However, there are too many who have “messed it up” for the masses.  Teachers who do not show pride in their profession are what create the ability for the masses of teachers to be dictated to from the “top-down.”  There needs to be more collaboration in the creation and implementation of standards as well as we need to review and reform NCLB (or whatever the new reauthorization will be called) to include more assessments that are not just a-d bubble answers.  

As we recover from this election season, let’s not forget to include education as one of the central issues that needs to be on the radar for the incoming Congress.  NCLB is up for reauthorization and should be one of the first pieces of legislation drawn up and debated during their first few months. 

In the immortal words of the late 20th century poet T.A. Shakur “keep ya head up.”

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