Saturday, August 31, 2013

Just a Teacher

Sipping my coffee this morning, I was scrolling through my FB feed, catching up with friends, family and colleagues who were sharing their Labor Day weekend plans.  A fellow friend who is also a teacher shared a link to Jamie Vollmer's poster that outlines
"The Ever Increasing Burden on America’s Public Schools."  Read through it and make sure to click on each red arrow next to the outlined decades.  (You can download the pdf version here.)

I've taught since the 1990's, and am aware that not only are education professionals expected to fulfill the requirements on Vollmer's list, we're expected to do it while also building relationships with students and families. Parents who try the ol' I-think-I'll-try-to-run-roughshod-over-the-teacher during our first parent teacher conference don't get very far with me because they're the ones who haven't read this list or imagined the additional items not on it.  They've bought the you're leaving my child behind agenda and believe it's right to tell me via body language, rolled eyes, attitude, crossed arms and smirks that I'm "just a teacher."

Having taught seventeen years, I don't let it go.  I don't dance around their attitude or nervously try to placate them.  I hit them right between the eyes with honesty and tell them why they're wrong.  I NEED my paycheck, which means I have no reason to lie and every reason to do my job well.  I care about children so much that I've chosen a profession where I work with them daily: I don't have to do this job, I want to do it.  I'm also an experienced professional, and believe I deserve to be treated like one without having to put up with BS.  Whether families are large-and-in-charge or low-key observers, trying to demean me or my colleagues should not be a sporting event.

 photo c9edcef2-fa30-487b-a980-0fa8bbf6d80e_zps265477d5.jpg

(Cropped photo, original found here)

I've been blessed to have almost two decades' worth of Super Star Families who have advocated for their children and me as we've partnered together to make our kindergarten years everything that the Stars deserve and need.  Mutual respect has been given, apologies have been shared when necessary, and ties have been strengthened to the point where I still receive prom photos and graduation announcements from former students.  My first class of Super Stars is gainfully employed or pursuing higher education.  Some of my former students have even started their own families.

But there have been some notable thorns in my side, experiences with parents that inspire me to share the following:

As you consider how to initiate your relationship with your child's teacher, you should know what many experienced educators a teacher like me thinks when I'm faced with grandstanding.  Behind my courteous and professional demeanor, my inner dialogue is saying "Don't like me?  Fine, it happens, but don't think you're going to shake me, make me bend over backwards to please you, or frighten me.  I've spent more time and more years in more classrooms and more states with more families and young children and their issues, needs, strengths, joys, and successes than you have.  You've got nothing on me, because "just a teacher" is the biggest compliment I could ever be given."

Kindergarten colleagues, I hope you and your students have a wonderful year!  Families, remember the Golden Rule as you meet and work with your child's teachers: they work harder than you'll ever know.


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