Constantly judged. You feel that way when you are a teacher. The thing is, I like feedback, I like conversations about how things can get better. But, it doesn’t always sound like dialogue to build ideas and improve my work. Sometimes it feels like scolding.
This week, I’ve been thinking about this feeling of being judged and what I’ve decided is that it’s all in the hearing. If I assume that all the comments sent my way about what goes on in my classroom, and what doesn’t, are intended to open a constructive dialogue to ultimately get at what’s best for students, then isn’t that what they become? As much as I may disagree with some of my colleagues and administrators, ultimately I do believe that they all want to do a good job for the children in their care. So, any comments or actions are pointed to that end. I decided to look at a choice judgment sent my way this week in just that light.
I was at a professional development workshop all day Monday so a substitute teacher was covering my class. This person did not follow my plans and perhaps didn’t read my notes at all. One important note she failed to read was about dismissal and so a little boy who was supposed to stay after school for a science program was instead put on the bus. Fortunately, his grandmother forgot it was after-school program day and was at the bus stop to meet him, so no big crisis arose. However, his mother was justifiably upset and sent me a kindly worded note that essentially asked how the hell that happened and what was I going to do so it didn’t happen again? My first reaction? Defensiveness. I had left the instructions. I had done my job. What more could I do?
And then I really asked myself that question.
What more could I do?
There was more. I talked to the Vice-Principal about the problems. I wrote a complaint to our principal so this person would be monitored more closely and not asked back to our school if problems persisted. Come to find out, she had already been written up for issues like coming in to school late and not going to duty stations. She had been in the office to discuss and remedy these problems already. If I had not brought these new problems to light, administration may have thought that she was now on the right track. So now admin was aware of the problem; step one complete. The next thing I had to do was see how I could change things in Room 102 to avoid these problems in the future. I looked at the sub dismissal notes, which seemed perfectly clear to me. I had a friend read them to see if they made sense. She said they did. So, perhaps the problem was that the substitute wasn’t reading them. I can’t be there to make sure the sub does her job, so I have to give more responsibility to the kids. From now on dismissal notes are not just on the clipboard that I carry out to the bus line, they will be posted on the wall by the door. Each student can check where she is supposed to go on which day. There will be a place for changes in dismissal to be noted on the board, like when Ann is being picked up instead of going on the bus or when Girl Scouts is cancelled. With a little practice, I think the kids will be able to run dismissal on their own, whether I’m there as a guide or not.
Teachers are judged every day. I’ve decided to listen to hear where the judgment is coming from, listening with the ear of the learner. I want to be a better teacher, a better colleague. I want to do better.
Judges, I’m ready for you.
(Still, it would be nice if you handed out a “good job” sticker every now and then.)