Saturday, September 24, 2011

Be Proud of Each Other

I recently read a great post by Pernille Ripp over at her blog titled “I am Nothing Special - Why Are Teachers Afraid to Share theirSuccesses?” I left a comment as it was something I had a strong reaction to as a result of personal experience. Initially, I was not going to share my thoughts on my own blog but felt compelled to share something that has happened to me recently. This is pieces of the comment I left on Pernille’s post with some additional reflection.

Recently, I was named as one of the finalists as teacher of the year for my state. Personally, I was proud of it but also felt awkward because I did not know how my fellow teachers in my building would feel about it. I knew I would get some razzing from my friends but honestly, I would do the same in their position. I posted a link to the press release announcing my finalist status on my Facebook page where numerous people such as Pernille congratulated me. However, not one person that I work with made a comment or even clicked "like" on the post. Every single person that commented was a part of my PLN on Twitter or my own family members.

Since then, I have had numerous newspaper articles written about me and the work I have done, none of which I will be linking to in this post :). In fact, I have put all of them with my diplomas, certificates and other recognition...in the bottom drawer of my file cabinet. With the exception of a few of my close friends at work, none of the teachers that I work with on a daily basis have even said a word to me about the it nor even acknowledged it. Rather, I hear whispers of negativity and relatively rude comments about me instead. This bothers me because I didn’t ask for any of this happen. I truly was going about my work and trying to be the best teacher I could be…nothing more. Some may think I am an overachiever or that I am trying to make others look bad. Truly that is not the case as all I ever try to do is be better at what I am doing and share my experiences in hopes of helping someone else.  Plus, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that many teachers are equally and in many cases more deserving of the recognition that has recently been bestowed upon me.

Now, don’t construe this as a rant where I am mad other teachers didn’t come up and pat me on the back or bake me a cake or that I am seeking attention because that is certainly not what it is. I didn’t ask for the attention, and personally, don’t care for it. When newspapers were contacting me I felt uncomfortable with it. However, I know that with this attention I am getting my students are better for it. It is giving me an opportunity to share about the work they are doing and the profession I love. It is not my work that is being highlighted as much as that of my students and it is a testament to my students, parents, fellow teachers and entire community. I would be happy for any teacher I work with to receive any recognition or positive press.

Any time we can shine a light on the great work being done in schools it should be celebrated.
I am not sure if it is jealously or some level of insecurity that prohibits some teachers from being proud of each other. When our fellow teachers get recognition for doing something well, we are all part of that. I know that I would not be where I am at or be getting the recognition I am without the people I work with. I would name names at this point but fear some might be embarrassed for being listed as we don’t go into this profession to be called out and recognized.

However, I will thank the teacher with the fish tank and "living the dream" who taught me the key to teaching effectively is all about relationship building and who models it for me every single day. I will thank the Language Arts teacher in the room over that took me under his wing and truly taught me how to be a teacher and has been a true friend to me every day. I will thank the 7th grade teacher who shows me every day how love and compassion are the cornerstones of every classroom and trumps all content. I would also thank those teachers that doubt me and my work because they inspire me to work harder and be better every day. Each one of these people and everyone else in my school has contributed to the teacher I am today regardless of if they know that or not.

Anytime positive attention is given to a teacher it benefits the entire school community because it brings that positive attention to a profession that is often short on it. We need to help each other be proud of ourselves and to be even more proud of each other. I am not saying I am a fan of awards or gold stars, but we need to lift each other up and create a culture within our schools that promotes and fosters celebration and pride in each other. 

Friday, September 23, 2011

Parents in the Classroom 2

I have written about this subject in the past but find myself coming back to it. There have been numerous posts floating around that surely do not help ease the potential tensions between teachers and parents. I felt compelled to share something new I am trying this year that directly relates to building relationships with parents. My goal this year is to bring more parents into the classroom and make them truly feel as if they are a part of the learning journey their children are on.

As a parent to a preschooler and kindergartner my perspective of parents has changed. In the past I honestly viewed them simply as people I had to talk to 2-3 times a year at parent night and our two conference nights. As a parent myself, I see the immense flaw in that thinking. I want to be involved in any way I can with my son’s learning. That is not to say I want to be a “helicopter” parent hovering and putting my hand in everything. However, I do want the opportunity to feel like I am some part of the process rather than just a bystander.

With those thoughts in mind, I am starting a “parents in the classroom” initiative this year. I will create times where parents can come into my classroom and partake in learning activities with their child. Credit for this idea is certainly not mine as many already do this. I regularly attend such days with my own children in their classrooms which is what inspired me to do the same. The students I teach are 6th graders and parents are certainly not used to such opportunities as they are not the norm. My first such day will be this coming week where parents will be mummifying bodies and building pyramids with their children in class. When I first sent the invite out to parents it was met with a mixture of surprise and relief. Many parents replied with their delight that a junior high teacher would invite parents into the classroom and relished the chance to take even a relatively small role in classroom activities.

I firmly believe that building relationships is key to success in so many facets of teaching. In order to truly be successful with a student, you first need a relationship. By bringing parents in to the classroom and telling them I value their involvement, I am hoping to build those relationships with them. My hope is to have these days at least once a month where the parents get to come in, learn with their child, and possibly embarrass them a bit as well… J