Saturday, January 1, 2011
No Us vs.Them. Just Us.
You know what I mean. Teachers versus their Principals and Vice Principals. The school versus the board office. The parents versus the school. The community versus the trustees. The students versus the teachers. Elementary versus Secondary. K-12 versus post-secondary. All of these adversarial relationships MUST go. None of them are productive, and even when they are said in jest, they still leave a bitter taste in peoples' mouths, and evoke memories of stereotypical relationships that were likely very strained at some point in time.
Some of these references are thought to be ok, like when teachers refer to administration as "The Dark Side". Or when administration refers to the school board office as "The Star Chamber". Or when people talk about things that are "top-down". Or when parents say that schools are not "real world" like the world that society acutally lives in. Often, comments like these are is glossed over with "it's just a joke", or "we're only kidding". Really? Imagine if a Principal referred to teaching as "the dark side", or if the district office referred to their administrators as "just middle management". Would this be considered funny? Or the school said their parents were "out of touch" with what is necessary for students to be successful. Comments like these would incite all sorts of criticism and hard feelings. Oddly, society has always considered it to be somewhat acceptable to criticize "up the chain", but decidedly gauche and unacceptable to criticize "down the chain". I would argue that any negative comments, joking or not, are demeaning and incredibly unproductive.
I am a Principal. I was a high school Biology and PE teacher. I was a Vice-Principal, and have been in three very different school districts. I am a parent of two young girls. I think each of these experiences gives me a certain perspective, but not THE perspective. I haven't taught for 10 years, and I would argue that as a result, I have a slightly antiquated point of view relative to teachers and students in the classroom of today. But I have never been a support worker, Director of Instruction, an Assistant Superintendent, Superintendent, or Trustee. So as a result, I am very limited in my ability to identify solutions to the challgenges that each of these people face in their positions.
Students, teachers, parents, support workers, Vice Principals, Principals, Superintendents, Trustees, and the community are all vital stakeholders in education. For students to be as successful as they possibly can, each of these parties needs to be treated with equal respect. No one party is better or worse, no more or less valuable, and no more or less culpable. Responsibility, successes and failures need to be shared equally, as a team. If there are challenges that arise, they can best be met if each of our stakeholders work together, as a team.
Teammates recognize that they must work together interdependently towards a common goal. . Teammates don't blame other teammates. Teammates meet the public unified as one, even when behind closed doors they might disagree. And the one thing that teammates NEVER do is call another teammate down (just ask John Wooden on TED talks - thanks to @Nunavut_Teacher). Never.
If the stakeholders in education are truly going to be a team that functions together, then let's stop perpetuating the adversarial relationships in education. And let's start by making a resolution. No more negative or derisive comments towards one of our teammates. There is no "Us versus Them". There's just Us.