November 22, 2008

Band of Bloggers?

One of our brethren has been released from his teaching position due in part to the reflective teacher writing that he posts anonymously on his teacher blog. Instead of being reprimanded, or even censured, he’s been fired. It seems so odd to me that anyone would look at this so important part of the teacher process as being anything other than a healthy and sometimes cathartic avenue towards working out our issues with education leading to the ultimate goal of being better and more effective teachers. To me, teacher bloggers, and anyone else who writes about improving teaching, are out on the cutting edge of education because we are actively seeking to grow in our craft personally, and to raise up our entire profession.

I’ve written before about how important I feel it is for teachers to spend significant amounts of time in reflection, and even blogging. For me this blog has two significant purposes. First, it gives me an opportunity to empty my pitcher of thoughts (so that it can be filled up again). I can’t help but think about teaching often, and sometimes it feels like I lose lots of interesting ideas if I don’t write them down somewhere, why not a blog? Second, here I get to work out my issues with teaching and re-convince myself that I do love to teach and that I am a teacher. All teachers know about teacher fatigue and desensitization, writing here helps me stay focused and hopefully fresh.

There are many all-star educators sharing out on the web. I have links to many of them here on this site. While I regularly check in with this group of writers, I am really anti-social because I rarely leave comments. It’s not that I don’t appreciate their thoughts and ideas, I do. But with 6 periods at school and 5 children under 16 at home, I just don’t have time. If you are not a regular reader of these ├╝ber-talented teachers, then checked them out.

Julia G. Tompson
Joannie Jacobs*

Cal Teacher Guy
Computer Science Teacher*
Cool Cat*
The Guru’s Handbook
Matt Harmless
Right on the Left Coast vs. Frustrated Teacher*

Adventures in Teaching
Newbie-A teacher’s voice
Penny Candy

The Apple
Teacher Lingo
Teacher Vision

*Nominated for a Blog/Web Award in 2008!

Add to this list in the comments area below.

The Internet is full of opportunities for teachers to connect with each other, to share best practices, and to commiserate when needed. Writing about and reflecting on teaching is an important function of being a healthy teacher. Clearly those of us who share our thoughts and experiences need to be sensitive to and protect those we may write about. It’s important for us to band together and protect this very important communication opportunity so that we may continue to enjoy each others on-line company.

November 16, 2008

The Lonely Teacher?

Teaching is a lonely job. I am sure that is hard to imagine for those who do not teach and who see teachers interacting with people everyday. While teachers develop excellent interpersonal communication and coping skills, we mostly use them to relate to students who are usually much younger and very different from ourselves. Sure, we know lots of (young) people and are regularly recognized in public, but filling the role of instructor, coach, sage, and sometimes hero can create a personal chasm that places teachers apart from the rest of the community.

Most teachers invite, embrace, and truly appreciate their roles as teachers. Teachers are held to a higher standard as they have come to represent an ideal of a contributing member of a community and a life of service. Most teachers are comfortable in their classrooms and spending time with their students and do not resent the pay scale or the hours; they recognize the importance and the real impact of the job. Effective teachers are able to forgo some of their personal needs and focus their attention on their students.

I am the center of attention (after the computers) in my classroom. Six times a day the room fills up with expectant young minds hungry for the knowledge that I am serving. Young people are wonderful sponges who love to soak up all manner of interesting and relevant facts, methods, procedures, tips, tricks, and even personal stories that they can recognize as useful in their lives. The majority of students adore the majority of their teachers and often enter their classrooms with a kind greeting and polite smile. The teacher-student correlation is a beautiful thing.

However, teachers work alone in a vacuum devoid of adult interaction through the majority of their days. Unless a teacher is team-teaching, or working in close proximity to a classroom of another teacher where there is common area or easy access, a teacher may not see another adult for many hours, or if by choice, the entire day. Not good. Just as children of all age groups need to spend time with their peers at school, so too do adult teachers need to spend time with their colleagues during the school day. Successful teachers require the daily encouragement of other successful teachers to continue to be, well, successful.

Unfortunately, opportunities for teachers to spend time collectively during the school day are usually not incorporated into the bell schedule. There are some exceptions, and schools who make the effort to give teachers time to work, share, commiserate, and even laugh together reap huge rewards for their students. But in schools that deny teachers the time to come together regularly whether it be in pairs, small groups, of as a whole staff, many teachers retreat into their classrooms, shut the door, and just teach. While an understandable reaction, this is not the best way for teachers to grow in teaching.

We teachers love to teach. So no mater what the intended focus of the teacher time the conversation will always come back to teaching. It’s who we are. Don’t think so? Then why are you spending time reading this teacher blog? Are you lonely to connect with other like-minded souls? What’s cool about a blog, in fact all of this web-based social networking stuff, is that there are exciting new ways of connecting with a broad spectrum of other people just like you regardless of location. It may surprise you that very few of my colleagues that I currently teach with know that I write these essays, and none of them follow this blog.

I recently came to the realization that while I may be well known in my small corner of the world, very few people actually know me. Even though I write incessantly, participate in many social arenas, and have many friends, very few of those relationships dive deeper than the surface. Maybe this is true for everyone, or maybe its just me. Perhaps I block those deeper relationship opportunities (but enough psychoanalysis). Sometimes when I am teaching a group of students, and things are going well, I think in my mind that it doesn’t matter that it’s ME who is their teacher, but simply that SOMEBODY is teaching them. Those are red flag moments when I need to pull aside a colleague and friend to check with them and to make sure that my efforts in the classroom are not in vain.

I invite you to leave your commiserate comments below.