Another school year has started. We have some new staff, many new students, and with that a few new families represented. The school year has started smoothly, but it wouldn’t be a start up if there weren’t a few wrinkles to iron out. Hopefully though, that doesn’t last long.
Our school division has a new superintendent. Some people don’t embrace change, but I generally gain energy from change (however, not quite as much as I did in the first 75% of my teaching career!) I’m looking forward to a new opportunity to learn and grow with her, and to see the great things that are in store for our awesome school division.
I’m hoping my blog entries are a bit more frequent this year. Last year we ended with about 6 weeks of frenzied activity
as a few emergent things took up most of our time. I know we can never fully prepare for those kinds of things, but I’m looking forward with positivity to a year filled with learning for all!
One of the biggest lies we can tell ourselves is, “I can’t do this.” Even though I consider myself to be a very positive, optomistic person, I still fall into this trap sometimes. The work we do in schools is so important, and often very challenging. Everyday we are faced with a myriad of decisions and difficulties. The self talk that we engage in at these times is usually key to the outcome we experience.
It’s very easy to fall into a trap of focusing on the difficulty of each task, and the overwhelming scale of the entire job. The error in doing this is that when we are focusing on the problem we take the focus of our ability to deal with the problem. I know it’s very unlikely that I will encounter a situation that I haven’t handled in one way or another in the past. If I’ve dealt with it before, there’s no reason I can’t deal with it now.
The inner voice needs to say, “I CAN do this!” And, I know I can do it now, because I’ve done it before. The negative self-talk is just a trap.
Some of my best thoughts come from Twitter. I usually have it open on my desktop at work, and occasionally check it while at home. I came across a tweet the other day that really got me thinking. (See image below)
What is the value in what we do? If our job doesn’t directly make a difference in the learning and the lives of the teachers and students, are we doing what we are ultimately meant to do? We certainly do things that indirectly affect the students and the teachers. We are often managers who oversee the operations of the school. But even these ultimately affect the teachers and students as the most optimal learning environment is to a large degree based on the comfort of the building and the schedule. We do our best to keep the school safe, because we know that you need to feel safe to work and learn to the best of your ability.
Clearing the way for teachers to become their best self in a school that has a vision and values results is the job we are ultimately tasked to do.
I think the question we need to be asking ourselves daily is, “Are the things I am spending my time on helping teachers do their jobs better?”
I find myself caught up in the busy-ness of the job on a regular basis. I regularly make lists of tasks I need to accomplish. I’m sure most of us do the same. I’m going to try reframing my priorities with this tweet in mind. I need to mindfully put the majority of my energy into those things that help my teachers do the best job they are capable of.
Thanks to Danny Steele for inspiring this post!
Listening to a lot of talk on CBC this morning around teacher merit pay. Please take a minute and read my thoughts on how merit pay should work!
Merit pay should be awarded to teachers for the following reasons:
- Having to answer phone calls from parents with ridiculous requests.
- Having to give food to kids from their own lunch.
- Attending students’ sport or arts events outside of school hours.
- Extra planning for students going on vacations during school time. (And a bonus for every excuse given for why none of the homework was completed).
- Cleaning up after a sick kid that was sent to school for ANY reason.
- Any “out of scope” experience during the day, like comforting an upset child because of something that happened out of school.
- Having to change plans in a moment every time technology doesn’t work.
- Every time they hear teaching compared to babysitting or hear about how great it must be to have summers off.
- Every time a student says, “You’re NOT the boss of me!”
- Whenever a parent comes in screaming because they believe every word their child has to say and being unwilling to hear both sides of the story.
- Every time a politician brings up the topic of Merit pay based on test scores.
There are so many factors involved in teaching that most people don’t understand. People who think of merit pay as a way to weed out underperforming teachers need to realize there are ways in place to manage this issue. Just because a parent or student doesn’t like a teacher, doesn’t make them a bad teacher. There are cases of teachers who need to rethink what they are doing, and principals and school divisions are responsible to take care of that. Merit pay is not the answer for this; strong leadership who take the performance of their teachers seriously is instrumental. Proper training of teachers, properly funded schools and allowing teachers to do their job are also major factors as well.
I don’t want anyone to think my sarcasm in any way is meant to bash parents. We deal with a lot of GREAT parents. There are very few of them who do the kinds of things mentioned above, (as there are very few teachers who do not do a great job).
This short blog isn’t intented to answer the questions about the issue. It’s just a few thoughts from my ADD brain.
Do I work in a perfect school? By no means!
Is this a great place to work? Absolutely!
Not every day is easy, there are times when the stresses of work get to us. There are things that happen that help make the terrible, bearable.
Play together – Every school should have fun activities that involve the students like Pyjama Days. But there should also be events that are just for the staff. Have a Secret Santa or a Secret Valentine. Go out for a meal during Teachers’ Convention or on a PD Day. Celebrate the start of the school year and the end of the school year. Celebrate making it through a tough week, or a long month. Look for reasons to celebrate and enjoy being together. If there are people who are reluctant to go out after work and enjoy social time, then keep the social time at school.
Be Open – Get to know each other. Take time to learn about what each others interests are and show that you care about each other. Share your ideas and what you are learning with others. This doesn’t mean you have to be FaceBook friends with everyone on staff, but we should all know enough about each other that we can ask how things are going. How is your family? How is that new puppy? Is your son enjoying college? Knowing details about people’s lives and expressing interest shows that you value them and relationships.
Learn together -When the school takes on a new initiative, or has one imposed on them, why not tackle the learning together. A book study might sound really boring to some people, but encourage everyone to try it out. Plan after-school discussion times about interesting topics. Engage staff on email, Twitter, Blogs about topics that impact the teaching and learning.
Accept differences – We need to be models of diversity and acceptance of others. We are all unique and conduct our classrooms and teaching in different ways. That’s what makes us great. We aren’t all the same and can learn to value what is different about us.
Be Accountable – We need to know that people are there to support us, but also to call us out when we need a reminder. Our division uses the Healthy Interactions model. It ties in really well to Seven Habits thinking as well. There is no reason that we should allow someone to continue with a behaviour that is detrimental to themselves or to the staff. Healthy Interactions:
The Healthy Interactions Program trains all staff in the jurisdiction in the communication and conflict-resolution skills they need to handle parental complaints and other concerns. Participants finish the program with increased confidence in dealing with concerns.
Overlook a Lot! – In our classrooms and in our schools many things happen that just need to be ignored. No one is perfect, and no one needs to be called out on everything that they might slip up on. As leaders and colleagues, we need to choose those things that we want to deal with and make an issue out of. We need to “Choose which hill we want to die on”
Grieve together – Bad Things happen. We need to know each other well enough to work through those things. We also need to know each other well enough to understand that we all grieve differently and allow for that.
Don’t forget it’s always about relationships – There is nothing more important than the relationships. That includes relationships with other staff, students, parents and the community. Results, profits, NOTHING takes precedence over relationships. I can’t remember my marks in any of my classes when I was in school. But I certainly do remember the teachers and what I perceived they thought about me!