Thursday, August 23, 2007

She said WHAT?!

Is Mercury retrograde this month? Is there a new or a full moon? Is the Earth magnetic field reversing? Are dogs and cats laying together in harmony? Has the Wailing Wall fallen? I am not sure what is currently going on within my little world, or even within the cosmos, but I am completely speechless and shocked at the many attitudes, comments and energies which others are “putting out there”.

One of my colleagues mentioned how weird it can be when you are trying to do something nice for somebody and that somebody misinterprets your kindness as something completely different… not kindness, but something more imposing… more misconstrued and twisted. And it is so hard to walk in someone else’s shoes in order to see it from their point of view when you really truly believe that you are doing something nice for someone else. You have genuine intentions, but somewhere along the course of communication, there occurs this glitch of misinterpretation. We have all experienced this at one point or another.

And it is frustrating.

You go back over the scenario in your mind. Over and over again, trying to identify where the miscommunication occurred or where you screwed up. You begin to see and understand the opposite point of view, even if you have to laugh or even scoff at how someone could mistaken your generosity. I thought I had experienced this uncomfortable situation in its fullest extent this month, until I was told by my husband of a comment made today.

One of our friends had presented at a county school district welcome back event. She was absolutely amazing! I was so proud of her for being calm, confident and animated in front of hundreds of people in person with thousands of people watching on TV. She demonstrated not only her ability to utilize the technology our county has provided all teachers, but she demonstrated how teachers can use that technology in their classroom. I heard dozens of compliments on her performance by fellow teachers, counselors and administrators and ALL of the comments were positive ones.

All until the hum-dinger I heard today.

A former Phoenix teacher was offered a position at a high school in the county and she was asked by her new colleagues how she perceived the welcome back presentation. Actually, it wasn’t even stated that nicely. I believe the statement was: What did you think about that last speaker, the one that made you feel like you were such a slacker?

I will give you a moment to pick your jaw off of the floor.

My friend was the last presenter and her objective was definitely not intended to make other teachers feel like they were BAD teachers. I am 100% positive that her intentions were no where near those sentiments. But somewhere along the line, there were teachers who received her amazingly put together and phenomenal presentation as an opportunity to make them feel bad about themselves.

So I have to ask, are the teachers who feel this way actually bad teachers? Or are they overwhelmed with the expectation of completing a vast set of state standards before the state standardized test in the middle of the 3rd quarter? Do they feel like there isn’t enough time in the day to complete everything they are required to do? Are these individuals the examples of teacher burn out that we hear about through the grapevine?

And let’s not even begin to broach the topic of technology… Are there teachers out there who feel like there is too much technology to learn and not enough time for trainings or practice? Do these teachers feel competitive with the younger models of teachers who know how to use iTunes, wikis and blogs effectively (and efficiently) in the classroom?

I will admit, I was astounded by the comment that high school teacher made in regards to my friend’s presentation. I felt several emotions wash over my body as I began to digest the comment in its entirety. I was shocked, then angry, then confused, and then astounded again. I kept thinking, how could somebody actually mutter those words when referring to that well planned and flawless presentation? How could someone possibly say that about her? That's my friend you're talkin' about!

But then, I began to wonder, why did that teacher say that? Are they feeling self-doubt about their talents and abilities? Do they feel obsolete?

What can we do to help that particular teacher find his/her spark again? Is there something we can do to help these people rediscover their motivations for entering this noble profession in the first place?

Whatever the reasons, I feel like we have an obligation to help teachers like those find their purpose in this very demanding yet gratifying profession. We need to help them realize that there are many of us out there who feel overwhelmed with the hefty curriculum and the state mandated testing. There are several of us out there who need extra time to try new technology and practice it. We already have a teacher shortage in this country and many individuals stay in teaching for less than 3 years! We are becoming "endangered" and we need to be placed on a "preservation" list!

I used to hate it when people would tell me, "You can't save them all."

They're right, you know. You can't.

But that still doesn't mean you at least shouldn't try.

2 comments:

Room 209 said...

Hold on there, Nellie.
What’s so bad about saying that someone else is making you feel like a slacker?
There's very little control on the part of the speaker regarding how someone reacts to you...so...
It’s not the reaction that should be judged, but what one does with it.
Are you telling me that you’ve never been pushed to do better without first feeling inadequate? A Nobel Peace Prize winner makes me feel like a slacker; I don’t hold that person in contempt. (Conversely, I might think I paint better than Picasso, but that doesn’t make it true to anyone but my mother.)
Maybe you could celebrate the realization that the teacher still cares enough to feel. (I worry more about the ones who isolate themselves in their portables each day, attend meetings for contractual obligation only, and probably interact little with others because of reactions to the comments they make. Read: On Common Ground, DuFour et.al.))

To me, this teacher is someone who is still reach-able. She/he is still interested in being in the discussion, or would not have said anything. The trick is in how your esteemed friend reacts that will either lead negatively, positively, or neutrally in the next act of the teacher who unveiled her thoughts.

We never think we’ll get old, never think it will happen to us. We never imagine ourselves on anything but the bleeding edge. But be vigilant, Ms. J, not to identify yourself too strongly with youth. Unlike sports, we don’t throw slackers off the team. We bench them. They either dress out and watch, we promote them, or they quit. (We don’t have a teacher shortage, we roll out plenty of teachers from the colleges. We have a retention problem because too many young teachers leave. Who stays?)

Maybe the role of those who see the bigger picture is to be the bridge-tender, not the troll. Be the one who bridges the gaps between experience and raw energy, instead of throwing off all those who come from 'another place'. There might be a few experiences you still have in front of you that keep you from seeing the whole truth.

I usually quote others, but I wrote this one as a teenager when my father had predicted yet another situation I did not see coming: “A wise man’s words are not heard until you know enough to speak them yourself.”

I remember being so angry at "burnouts who still taught" that I (unsuccessfully)tried to get approval for my dissertation about it... “What happens to them, and not to others,” I wanted to know? I was "strongly advised" against it. Do you know why?

Whether or not it will ever fruition into a formal research project, I think I will always want to know what separates those who give up and those who stay ‘green and growing.’

Only now my question might be closer to, what’s happening to me? I’m hoping there is some magic in the idea that I am still asking. You know, aging is one fight that cannot be willed victoriously through. And, the older I get, the less I know for sure. Weird.
Maybe that’s why I respond to your blog rather than create my own! It’s so much easier to react than to generate. I’m such a slacker! See how you make me feel?

Jess Timmons said...

Touché.

I know I haven't been here on this Earth very long, and I don't claim to be a wise sage by any means...

But is there some truth to being "only as old as you feel"? Just something to think about. : )