Sometimes it seems like the world is crashing down around us. Educators are often judged solely by results on standardized tests, students come needing more than we are equipped to provide, and more often than people would like to admit there are more day days in the month than dollars in the checking account.
And then there are those who respond to those issues with statements like, “Teachers knew what they were getting into when they started,” “Welcome to the real world,” “You don’t even work all year,” or “Stop whining” (I actually saw that one this week on a news message board). And the list goes on and on and on and on…
Sometimes it feels like our professional world is crashing down around us.
Every teacher I know and work with acknowledges they matter to their students, and every teacher I know and work with has a strong-enough self-concept and self-efficacy to rest in their own sense of self-worth to know they matter (remember that Taylor Mali video that went around several years ago?) Yet the world still sometimes feels like it’s crashing down around you.
More than not mattering, too many teachers don’t feel valuable; too many teachers feel like they are the problem.
I don’t see teachers as our problem, I see them as our greatest asset in solving some of our greatest problems. I’m not sure it was always that way, at least not functionally. I may have said the right things, but I had gotten sucked into the trap of thinking I could actually “fix” them, and in thinking I could “fix” someone I realized I was seeming “them” as the problem (because you don’t “fix” something that’s working, you only “fix” what’s broken, so if you have to “fix” a person what you’re saying is the person is broken). I could tell you stories of the way I used to be, but that’s not the purpose or focus of this post… The point is that many of us, over the years, have paid lip service to the idea of supporting educators but too often have failed to do it.
So let me say this because there are people out there who need to hear it: you have value, you have worth, and you are not the problem. You are the solution to the problems we face every day.
And here are some of the actions I believe are behind that statement. We are in the middle of a multi-year, $22 million initiative to expand teacher compensation and influence in our district. Because we believe teachers matter, have value, and are the potential solutions to some of our greatest problems in education, we are literally paying teachers across this district millions of dollars to study those problems and identify potential solutions. We are investing hundreds-of-thousands of dollars in designing, developing, and implementing high-quality training, support, and professional-learning for teachers. And not training to “fix” teachers, but training designed to empower teachers to step into leadership roles and equip them with the identities, attitudes, dispositions, and skills to collaboratively attack the problems we are facing. We are supporting our teachers in becoming the solutions we so desperately need. We are focusing on empowering and equipping teachers, not fixing them.
As I work with educators in this district – teachers in our TLI program, teachers who serve as members of Communities of Practice (as both FTs and CTs), and even administrators who are learning to trust those teachers leaders – I hear and see over and over and over again the positive impact that teachers are having not just in the lives of individual students but also in the work of schools at large.
I’m attempting to say that I do – we do – what we do because you are valuable, because your have worth, because we believe in you, because you matter. When you’re alone and it’s cold and dark you need something to look to, something to hang your hat on. When you’re feeling like you don’t matter, that you’re not valuable, that you can’t make it one more day, look to the posts over the last week that have been written to remind yourself that those self-defeating thoughts are only momentary and they don’t define you. Look for the lighthouse in the middle of the storm, the actions that follow-up and support the words we say as proof that we really do value you.