I'm at an all-day professional development when our leaders hand us a sheet with our benchmark data. Instead of feeling relieved that my class is ten points above the district average, I feel pressured. I feel like my success is somehow tied to the integration of Chromebooks into our classrooms.

And I feel alone.

But then, as we work in small groups and begin to collaborate, an amazing sixth grade teacher shares how she's feeling.

"They just gave us four new things we're supposed to implement. At first, they said that these were options and then they were tights," she says.

"You look overwhelmed," I respond.

"Being compliant is making me the kind of teacher I don't want to be. There are so many tights," she laments.

"I always thought that the number of tights was supposed to be low, but in some schools, there are more tights than a ballet," I point out.

As we each continue to talk, I am struck by the fact that we are all struggling right now. It's a hard time of the year for teachers. The brutal benchmark tests are just a few months away and well-intentioned bureaucrats are creating a list of mandates for teachers to accomplish. Underachieving teachers are being shamed while high-achieving teachers are feeling pressured. It's the time of the year when the copy machine starts breaking and it's still dark in the morning and the cold seems to hang in there well past its end date.

Teachers aren't burnt out right now, but in general, they are tired and stressed. They don't need a ton of new professional development. They're not looking for new initiatives. They don't need reminders about the importance of their data. What they need, more than anything else, is a little more affirmation.

21 comments:

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    1. Someday, I'd like to meet you and your wife, Dean.

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    2. Rephrase: I've met you. Someday it would be fun to hang out, though.

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  2. Across the nation, your message rings loud and clear. Unfortunately, it too often falls on the deaf ears of those who are charged with implementing the plethora of initiatives and requirements associated with federal dollars. Common Core standards, new slates of state assessments, redesigned state report cards, new teacher evaluation systems, etc. All of which are being implemented under the auspices of ensuring our students are "college and career ready." My question is, "If federal dollars were not associated with these initiatives, would states be pursuing them so fervently?"

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    1. And if the policies were different, what would the teacher attitudes and approaches be?

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  3. This is so true. Now, combine that with the cutbacks from the State of Michigan and you'll realize teachers are just about the hardest working people in America.

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    1. Agreed. Though I would also point out that there are many people working really hard.

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  4. Frankly, I think there are a lot of people out there who are working hard to make the quotas imposed on them by systems analysts and government mandates via elected officials. And these people never get a break: the year never starts anew; they have no two-week holiday breaks; there is no summer vacation. I agree that good teachers work hard but let's remember teaching is work and no one ever said it was going to be easy. I am a hard-working teacher and frankly, I'm a little tired of the whining.

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    1. The people you refer to very well might be hard-working people. However, many times they also don't work at the same breakneck speed that teachers work at. Re-read the post. It's not a pity party. It's not whining. It is simply saying what I've observed: that good teachers are exhausted right now.

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  5. "An unquiet pedagogy must rock the boat!" ~ Paulo Friere It's not whining to speak truth. I teach. I work hard. I achieve and so do my students - because my work is to create the conditions for their success. The work of our "well-meaning" politicians is to create the conditions for our success. Mandates, new initiatives, and so- called "reforms" that exclude teacher input - do nothing to create success for me. Still, I'm going to keep working. Thanks, John Spencer, for expressing the frustration so many of us feel.

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    1. Thank you. I think that was the thrust of my argument: that the "tights" and the bad policy is wearing out good teachers.

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  6. We barely get our arms wrapped around one initiative or new program, and we move on to something else. We never achieve mastery because of the rapid-fire changes. It takes time for an idea to be planned, implemented, evaluated, and revised. But there's never that time- we're always in the planning/implementation stages. Frustrating to a veteran teacher; confusing to a newbie. But we are dedicated to our students, and helping them through the next "big thing."

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    1. Never achieving mastery is one of the biggest side effects to this approach.

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  7. Maybe this goes without saying, but I think it's interesting that you could substitute the word "student" for "teacher" in any sentence of this post and it would be just as relevant:

    "Being compliant is making me the kind of student I don't want to be."

    "Underachieving students are being shamed while high-achieving students are feeling pressured."

    etc etc...



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    1. BRAVO, rborrelli...that is a perfect reminder. John, every time I have PD I think, "Is this how my students feel?" I am always a better teacher after the PD because I am reminded how much it sucks to sit in a chair all day and have people throw tasks at me.

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  8. Not just across US, its the same in NSW, Australia and I'm guessing the rest of Australia too. More & more new programs, paperwork, assessments and proof of results. Not whinging just tired. I don't get the time to create the things I used to and its harder to follow a tangent that class is enthused about and therefore learning more because of the other stuff you need to get done.

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