Monday, February 23, 2015

#Teach2Teach: Q2: Politics

How do you stay inspired and not get bogged down by the politics of teaching?

Especially recently, this is a very tricky thing for me to do.

This past year our school was given a "D" by the state.  It felt like a punch to the stomach for a school that had been part of a corporation of "A" schools for the previous two years.

I know I must be biased, but my current school is the absolute best building of administrators, and teachers that I have ever been a part of.  Creative, passionate, talented adults truly looking out for students and challenging them to be their best.  All the parts of education I have always longed to be a part of, and none of the stuff I hate.  The despair and discouragement that rippled from this injustice was a knife to the heart.

So, this year, the politics of teaching have taken a front seat, I hate to admit.  Our school has been forced to make decisions that don't put students first.  Our administration has been backed into a corner and our teachers have been pushed to their breaking points.  Inspiration has felt sparse at times.

BUT.  There are still gems of individuals who say the right things at the right times and burst through all that negativity to remind me what is most important:  the relationships we build with students.

If there is one sure fired way to stay inspired and not get bogged down by the politics of teaching it is this:  invest into the souls that are in your classroom each day.  When it seems easy to feel burdened, stressed and overworked by things that are out of your control focus your energy on asking questions of your students. Not "Did you get your homework done?" or "Are you ready for the test?"but rather "What are you looking forward to this week?" and "What inspires you?"  Use your life experiences and perspective to shed light on their emotional disasters and challenge their black-and-white thinking.  Present them with more than assignments.  Present them with challenges and opportunities.  Push the pause button on the all-consuming conversation of standardized testing and offer a handshake and a personal greeting to the shells of people walking through your door.  Refuse to accept the answer "fine" when you ask how Juan is doing today.  Take notice when Melissa can't stay awake at the back of the room.  Congratulate Mitch on winning the geography bee last night.  Double check with Ellie when you notice a pattern of nurse visits right before quizzes.  Channel the energy typically put into teacher's lounge gossip and pointless complaints into how to better relate to and connect with your students.

The politics of teaching could leave me feeling inadequate, undervalued, ignored or stifled.  But the faces staring up at me from my desks beg for more than my wounded ego and victim mentality.  They deserve my fullest attention and energy for the moments that I stand in front of them.

Choose to matter.

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