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Finding and cultivating allies December 5, 2008

Filed under: Education — Ms.M @ 5:59 pm

“If teaching were retail, you’d have ninety customers, a broken cash-register, and no-coworkers. This old model of isolation is simply insufficient to meet the powerful impact of language, economic, cultural, and ethnic diversity that define high need urban classrooms. If we truly seek to make good on the promises of an equitable public educational system and the true meritocracy it is designed to create, we must build coalitions among educators. We must cultivate allies within our school communities. We must be constant learners, endlessly seeking new opportunities and new avenues for increased student achievement. We must not wait for someone to hand us the new tool or new strategy, but we must head out to find it ourselves, bring it back, and show everyone what we did.”

–Blog, Teaching in the 408

It’s sad that teachers with this much to offer don’t stay teachers. It’s sad that at some point they realize that they could do more for education outside of the teaching profession and not within it. At some point they may realize that calling teaching a profession is really just a half-truth or an exception to the rule. It’s stuck forever in that in-between. It’s a profession to the extent that it requires a license, a certification, a certain number of training hours and education. But it stops there, or falters badly from that point.

Teaching is a lonely job. Partly it’s a lonely job because we’ve made it that way, or have voiced very little opposition. And by we I mean all the countless teachers who’ve worked in all the countless schools and have made due with what they’ve been given, what they’ve been told, what’s “worked” to get them through each class period, week, month, year.  Very early on in my teacher education, I was told to avoid the teacher’s lounges, not because the coffee was bad, or the chairs uncomfortable, but because the talk between teachers tends towards the cynical and negative if it tends towards learning or students at all.  And it’s true, for the most part. When teachers have thirty minutes together that are not specifically set aside for some set purpose what seems to come up, besides something like shopping or home improvement, is all the thorns and very few roses.  Teacher’s lounges should be places where a teacher can voice concerns, share ideas, read new and interesting articles about a variety of topics. But to go in that direction is like being the nerd in a room of A-listers.

Although I’ve seen more teachers interacting and sharing online than ever before, I very rarely, or almost never, see teachers within the same building, the same district, doing that type of collaborating. Maybe it’s the beginning of something, but it’s nowhere near where it should be. Of course there are exceptions, and sometimes I get to read about them, but often they are the only ones who know.


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