Good Teachers Aren't Born, They Evolve
I saw this OpEd piece from the L.A. Times a few days ago and have been thinking about it ever since.
I heart the first sentence. “Great teachers aren’t born — they evolve.” I heart this idea because it embraces the reality that good teachers are continuously reinventing themselves as they change, their students change and education changes. I know sometimes we may dig in our heels and kick and scream about change (as many love to mock us for doing), but usually that happens when our expertise is being overlooked. It’s hard to buy in to something that will change your entire day and way of doing things when no one has the courtesy to listen to your input. At. All. Anyway, I love this first sentence because not only does it imply that teachers are constantly learning alongside their students, but it also implies that experienced teachers are not dinosaurs to be ignored. That maybe, just maybe, they have something of value to say after their years of evolving. And maybe, just maybe, if we don’t like what they have evolved into, we need to take a better look at the system we put them through. (Powers That Be and Guys In A Suit Who Have Never Taught But Make All The Decisions, I’m looking at YOU!)
Then the article begins to discuss observations and evaluations. Um, I don’t know about you, but “getting observed” was the most ridiculous exercise ever. Ridiculous. You see, first there was the pre-observation meeting, where we had to discuss our lesson plan. (Translation: the meeting that was re-scheduled at least twice despite me showing up on time FOR EVERY ONE and waiting around for twenty minutes only to be told in passing what I should teach for my observation because of course I wasn’t going to get to choose the lesson or subject matter myself.) Now, I understand why formal observations should occur. And I had no problem being observed. In fact, I wanted more people in my room – come, give me feedback, what are you seeing, how can I get better, did you like my read aloud? ANYTHING! Anything more than a required twenty minute visit that ended in a very dissatisfying “S” for satisfactory and no real, useful feedback. (Or maybe the “S” really stood for “sucker” as in, “you thought you were going to get thoughtful feedback, sucker?” ) (Or perhaps “S” was for “see ya later” as in, “I have a mountain of paperwork and this is clearly not my priority, so see ya later!”)
But back to the article.
Get this – the article even suggests that perhaps, just maybe, in an ideal world that TEACHERS should also get to evaluate the ADMINISTRATORS they work with on a daily basis.
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Hot damn! And while I would want to use it as an opportunity to get out all of my frustrations, I know that professionally speaking, and I would be speaking professionally because I wouldn’t want to lose the privilege, this makes sense. Administrators are doing good things. And just like teachers, I’m sure they would like a little acknowledgment. And hopefully, just like teachers, they are looking for opportunities for growth and who better to help with those suggestions than the people who work with them each and every day. Because contrary to popular belief, we aren’t wee peons who are there to serve…we are knowledgeable co-workers, engaged in the same daily struggle to do what is best for children. I like to imagine administrators and teachers involved in a very elaborate dance together – kind of like Dirty Dancing. You know the party where Patrick Swayze tells Jennifer Gray that “This is your dance space, and this is my dance space”. And then there’s this whole thing about “No spaghetti arms.” Anyone else see the connection? Two individuals supporting one another? Through a difficult dance? No? I’ve had too much coffee? Not enough sleep? Too many re-runs?