Monday, March 11, 2019

SOL 19 Slice #11 Respecting teachers

I am participating in the
 Slice of Life Story Challenge (SOL19)
All participants are writing about one moment, one part of their day, every day for the month of March 2019.

A big thank you to Two Writing Teachers for providing this unique opportunity
for teacher-writers to share and reflect.

Back when I first became a preschool teacher, I went to an education conference in Ocean City, Maryland with my teaching colleagues. We had a variety of workshops to choose from and I was excited to attend. I was fresh out of my early childhood certification course and very excited about my career change. (I had formerly worked at a consulting firm as a technical writer and trainer, a world of high heels and beautiful suits, and the ability to take a break during the day whenever I needed to do so - yes, a very different world from teaching.)

As I entered the very first workshop that day in Ocean City, Maryland, I passed an unsmiling woman standing right by the exit door; I remember thinking, "hmmm, that's odd - she looks a bit like a bouncer. Why would there need to be a bouncer here?" I settled into my seat, next to my colleagues, making chit-chat. Others entered, settled into their seats.

Just as it was time to start the workshop, that unsmiling person in the back of the room announced - "The doors will now be locked. There is no exiting in the middle of this workshop. You are earning 2 hours of training and we need to be sure that you are in attendance."

Oh. My. Goodness.

She locked the doors!!

For real.

I was locked into my first-ever teacher training.

I was aghast. I really could not believe the way I was being treated. I remember my "seasoned" colleagues giggling over my affront; they were numb to this treatment. Fresh out of a "professional" setting, I saw the condescension. Talk about a lack of trust! What a paradigm shift from the world of technical writing and consulting. I was being treated in a demeaning, controlled way.

Fast forward 20 years, I am still teaching early childhood. I am a master teacher, working alongside a beginning teacher, showing her the ropes. I love young children.

Although I haven't had as stark an experience as I had at this first early childhood conference, I continue to be horrified by the way that we treat teachers.

Teachers are frequently not treated as professionals.

One example I have is an annual observation done by the Office of Superintendent of Education for Pre K classrooms throughout the district. These are four hours long, with my every move being observed - listening to my words, noting the words and movements of all adults in the classroom, taking notes of which students were doing what...I am under a microscope. I am a seasoned teacher, an experienced teacher, and I am absolutely wiped out by this observation each year. How to describe the exhaustion I felt from the scrutiny? I do not feel as if I should take a bathroom break. I feel pressure to have fake conversations with children. I feel enormous responsibility for all others in my room - what were they saying? doing?

Imagine - the observer is a stranger and enters without a smile and no small talk. Children try to chat her up and she avoids. It is a small poison really, to a teaching team, to a preschool classroom - to loom as she does in the midst of the classroom for the entire morning. She arrives while I am setting up my classroom in the early morning and stays until lunch is served - four hours into the day.

My school will get a report and a score in a few months.

Here's my wonder -
Of what value is this?  
How does it improve my teaching? 
How does it inform me?
How is it helpful to not hear any feedback for several months? 

I have no issues with being observed. It is magical to have coaches come in, or peers, or even supervisors, and give you real-time feedback and insight. Videotaping is also great.

Why does this annual observation by the State Superintendent feel different to me? The teacher is not in conversation with the observer, this is obviously not a collaboration, there is no feedback that helps me grow professionally. I feel like a pawn, not in control.

Yes, it is a 'put down,' a locking of teachers into a room.

I am not a professional. I am a widget. 

1 comment:

  1. The line that gets me: “It is a small poison really, to a teaching team, to a preschool classroom - to loom as she does in the midst of the classroom for the entire morning.” And that door locking has to be a fire code violation. I’ve never heard of such a thing. Horrifying!