It has become painfully obvious to me over the last few years that teaching may be the only profession in which you can be guaranteed that someone will say you are wrong about something at least once a day.
There are so many people with a vested (and sometimes even not vested) interest in what you do in your classroom that you can be sure to be judged over at least one small detail each day at work. I can think of no other profession in which there are so many other experts lining up to tell you how, and how not to, do your job. In which other professions could you open your email at night, be unjustly criticized by someone and then struggle to sleep? It happens to teachers all the time.
This can become extremely debilitating:
- It can stop you from being innovative
- It can make you second guess your every action
- It can limit the experiences you offer your students
- It can destroy your confidence in yourself
- It can undermine the fundamental importance of the individual teacher and the differences we bring to education
I am fairly lucky. To a certain extent, I am strong about what I believe about learning and how I go about putting what I believe into practice.
Others are less lucky. Many teachers are highly sensitive people to whom the opinions and judgments of colleagues, parents, administrators and whoever else happens to pass by matter a great deal. These people can shrink before your eyes as their individuality, decision-making, ideas and approaches are questioned. They spend countless hours writing replies to critical emails – all too often justifying their own blatantly good actions in response to blatantly ridiculous criticism. Honestly, if we were to spend several years gathering all of the things teachers are frequently told they are wrong about we could compile possible the best tragic joke book of all time!
This trend really bothers me. The disempowerment of teachers really bothers me… particularly as these people are being asked to empower their students.
- Possess a very clear vision/mission statement through which everything can be “filtered”
- Hire teachers whose thinking and practice are aligned with that vision
- Have a default setting of backing teachers first, responding to criticism second (if at all)
- Have a zero-tolerance approach to gossip in the teaching community
- Hire leadership teams who have a strong, teacher-centred, approach
- Believe in themselves and the way they work
- Make sure they are working in the school that is right for them, and vice-versa
- Not apologize in response to unfair criticism
- Always respond to criticism by suggesting a face-to-face meeting, not by an exchange of opinions or justifications by email
- Inform a member of the school’s leadership team once a series of criticisms begins
- Have confidence in the fact that most criticisms are likely to come from ignorance
- Allow their colleagues the space to be themselves
- Have faith in the teachers who devote their last drop of energy to doing their job as well as they can
- Make sure their kids are in the right school for them, or;
- Be willing to have their predetermined ideas about education permanently changed, or;
- Be ready to change which school their child goes to, not try and change the school they do go to
- Find other distractions if they find themselves putting too much thought into what is going on their children’s classrooms!
Picking fault with teachers in a way that is destructive should not be tolerated. In all honesty, is there another profession in which this happens???