A Few Educators Who ‘Go The Extra Way’ Can’t Save The Education System
After filling up on Chinese takeout, my husband opened a fortune cookie and read:
My instinctual response to this seemingly harmless message was: It took me a while to understand why this banal comment caused such outrage.
At school, the phrase “stay one step ahead” comes up frequently. There are always stories about teachers who have gone beyond their call of duty. One might say that the phrase is ubiquitous across sectors — it’s just a catchphrase for talking about “good employees” — but public discourse suggests that all teachers should go the extra mile. I would argue that it harms the teaching profession because it suggests that. But that is a dangerous misconception.
how this phrase is displayed
Please let me explain. This phrase and the message behind it come in many forms. From shouts during staff meetings to spotlights by newsletter administrators, these and other examples of public acknowledgment shape how we perceive and talk about our teachers.
Let’s see how this plays out in the mind of an educator. The week before the school year officially started, I was attending a full-day professional development session led by a presenter. A presenter flew miles to my school in California to teach me how to run a branded educator training program. will remain anonymous) bills itself as a culture changer and a vehicle for building genuine connections between staff and students.
A key image that appeared in the material used in the session was a graphic of a pyramid with three labeled sections. The base of the pyramid is labeled “Anything” and represents the group of teachers and school staff with an “Anything” attitude. The facilitator explained that the employees in this group are not interested in initiatives or improvement plans, they are simply there to clock in, clock out and get paid. The center of the pyramid is labeled “whatever you say”, and the presenter says that this will go along with the plan given to him by management, but he has no real enthusiasm for the work. Said it represents a segment of school staff.. Then at the top of the pyramid is (as you probably guessed) labeled “Anything”. risk your life to advance the school. The host was urging us all to be educators, like breathing rarefied air at the top of a pyramid, people who can do whatever it takes.
I sat there looking at the pyramids and listening to the presenter’s anecdotes about the teachers who went the extra mile. There were stories of teachers who attended every game, who stayed late to mentor students at no extra charge, who visited homes and accompanied them on every excursion. How the presenter focuses on individual educators acting almost alone to “save” situations, clubs or students, rather than school communities working together to grow in a sustainable way. I couldn’t help but wonder if there was. I couldn’t help but think about building pyramids. Was it even possible for us all to come out on top? If all educators were in the top category of the pyramid, as the presenter recommended, would it even be a pyramid?
What is a “good teacher”?
Everyone has their own idea of what a good education is, but parents, administrators, and even some educators can respond quickly to emails, volunteer to supervise school events, or be late to school. I often hear people talking about “good teachers” who do what they do. “Help.” I’ve been an educator for over 17 years, and he’s been an education coach for nearly 10 years. I have dedicated my career to being a ‘good teacher’ and helping others to be ‘good teachers’. I learned that good education is not always defined by volunteering and participating in neat bulletin boards and unpaid opportunities to support students. for any school event.
I am not suggesting that these are signs of bad teaching or that good teachers often do not do these things. It points out that it does not necessarily indicate strong teaching or an effective educational system.
My experience has shown that “good teachers” have a particular way of thinking and being in the classroom that is evident in every interaction they have with their students. They ponder their teaching practices. They frequently check understanding and are responsive to students’ individual assets and learning needs. But they don’t always exhibit the “extra” behavior that puts them in the spotlight. In fact, some characteristics of a “good teacher” are quietly expressed and unobtrusive.
As a coach, I have worked with all kinds of teachers. risk my life And many of these individuals tell me they feel they need to “do more” because their schools lack the systems and infrastructure necessary to meet the needs of all their students. It can be said that So these caring educators take it upon themselves to fill in the gaps with their individual and very difficult efforts, and suddenly the ‘can do’ educators quickly become ‘burnt out and ready to quit’. Become an educator.
Let’s go back to the pyramid. When I was sitting in that room with a representative group of school staff, I saw my colleague’s face as the presenter was talking about the “whatever” group. Their facial expressions recorded different emotions. Some were defensive, others expressed a sense of superiority.
After this session, I had conversations with many of the participants, some of whom were quickly put off by the presenter’s message and judged or forced to compare themselves to their peers. .
A colleague told me: I was a club advisor for many years. I’m available at lunch if students want to see me, but they have to pick up their own kids after school. what should i do ”
Another said: They should be listening to this speech, but of course they are not here. “
As I listened to the presenters, I found myself becoming defensive and paranoid. I wondered if others saw me as a “can do anything” type of educator, or if management thought I should be more of a “can do anything” type.
Many of us became educators because we want to help others, are community oriented, and are public service oriented. We would like to do everything, but it is not possible.
We cannot operate beyond our capacity for very long.
The “good teacher” vs. “bad teacher” debate has become toxic. This kind of teacher categorization leads to self-defense, comparison, and paranoia. We need to stop obsessing over whether individual teachers “try harder.” Instead, we should focus on the school community.
Gardens, not pyramids
Instead of pyramids, embrace new images that are more organic. A school community is a complex web of relationships, like a garden. Imagine if we all understood a school community like the Three Sisters Garden. In this indigenous agriculture, corn, beans and squash grow together to create a sustainable growth cycle that allows the entire garden to thrive. The large pumpkin leaves provide shade and allow the soil to retain moisture, and the beans provide nitrogen to fertilize the soil. The garden does not rely on exploitation of one crop to grow the rest.
If a teacher who has been the club’s advisor for years finds himself with two small children at home and a full plate, he has more time on his hands as an empty house. You may pass it on to another teacher who finds you. Perhaps another teacher going through cancer treatment found himself incapable of planning the same kind of complex unit he had done in the past, so he relied heavily on the course team for ideas and activities. A para-educator who suddenly finds himself supporting his family financially may use the paid opportunity to supervise after-school events, while other staff may be forced to participate in some of the games. and there is a common understanding that attendance does not indicate our level of commitment to our students.
Our role as educators changes over time. During certain seasons of our lives, it may be like corn that provides a foundation for growth. In another example, we might find ourselves like squash, building stability and sustainability across school communities.
The harmless fortune cookie was probably right. You probably won’t be crowded for the extra mile. And it may not be a bad thing. Perhaps the goal is not to have an extra mile of more congestion, but a shared vision of sustainable care, cultivated without judgment.