Sunday, April 4, 2010

Common Sense Responses to Common Complaints

I very rarely write posts about educational theory, educational philosophy, or the politics of public education not because I don't have ideas, but because that's not the purpose of this blog. But, it is my blog and I do have ideas so this morning I'll venture off course just a bit. If you don't like this post, don't worry. I promise that the next 100+ posts will be focused on free resources for education.

Anyone that has spent more than a few minutes in a teachers' break room can probably tell you that the most common complaints from teachers center around disagreement with administrative decisions. Another common complaint, more common amongst younger teachers, is about low salaries. I'm as guilty as the next teacher of engaging in these complaining sessions. However, over time my response to hearing these complaints from other teachers has changed from joining into the complaining to blocking out the complaining plowing ahead to do my best for my students. (Although again I still do complain sometimes, I just try to do it less).

Yesterday, I read a post from Dr. Scott McLeod that really reflects my newer (relatively) thinking about the common complaints of teachers about the state of public education. After listing the responsibilities of school leaders McLeod writes,
We can point fingers. We can blame others. We can rail against the system. But we must recognize that we are in charge of the system."

He then goes on to write,
"We must point those fingers inward."

Granted, McLeod is addressing school administrators, but I believe those same ideas can be used by classroom teachers too. We can complain that we don't have the computers we know students need, or that we don't have the least restrictive Internet environments we need, but that shouldn't stop us from trying to creatively work around those problems and bringing those problems and our solutions to the attention of administrators in constructive manners.

Dr. McLeod's post reminded me of something Diana Laufenberg wrote last summer. In No One is Coming for Us! Diana addresses teachers with this,

"Many teachers are looking around wondering where the leaders are, who will ‘allow’ them to implement their big ideas for change. The thing that I have come to realize, people, is that NO ONE IS COMING FOR US."

Diana goes on to encourage teachers to stop waiting for permission to make changes in their instruction and to just start making the changes they need to make. Reading Diana's post last summer and again this morning reminded me of Seth Godin's Tribes.In Tribes Godin, like Diana, also implores leaders at all levels to stop waiting for permission to lead. Implementing change without permission can be a risk. Yet if we are to do our best for our students we owe it to them to take that risk.

On the topic of salaries, my friend and special education teacher Harold Shaw wrote a no-nonsense response to complaints about low salaries. Using simple mathematics Harold explains to teachers that we need to make apples to apples comparisons when comparing our salaries to other public sector employees. While Harold's analysis won't put more money in your pocket, it might make you feel a little better about your salary.