Knowing that you were once a teacher, I am beginning to question this letter. What I have said here should not be new to you. So why would I ask you to take the time to listen?
Because I talk to the teachers every day. They share their thoughts on social media, in comments on my blog, and in private emails. I see how many of them are struggling. Some engage in healthy struggles and “good stress” to work on challenging tasks. If we consider teacher stress as a continuum, I would put these teachers on the healthy end.
Struggle, on the other hand, is a different kind of desperation that goes beyond “good stress.” The teachers at the end of the continuum are nervous. Many nights they go home crying. They don’t sleep. They cannot concentrate. And they are seriously considering leaving the profession altogether.
After listening to thousands of teachers tell their stories, I’ve come to the conclusion that there is one determining factor in determining where teachers end up on the continuum, and one factor that makes the difference between whether teachers in a given school are positive or positive. productive or desperate, oppressed: That element is the administrator. Behind every teacher story is an administrator who explains policies, sets expectations, and sets the tone that defines the quality of work of their teachers and, by extension, the education of their students. If too many teachers are drowning in the unhealthy end of the continuum (and our current teacher shortage suggests this is the case), then too many administrators tolerate or create unhealthy working conditions. Admins who may have forgotten what it’s like to be a teacher.
Most of us will never fully understand the hardships of your job, the pressures of parents, community members, head office, students and teachers. How mandates pass without your vote. What pressures do things like security and budget put on you? Dozens of decisions you make every hour. How you protect your staff in ways you may never know and how you do things for children that no one else sees. We forget that, unlike when you were in class, you had many colleagues and could vent when things got tough, you’re often alone now. How you miss out on so many good things: You don’t get as much joy in training the young because you’re constantly putting out fires and making sure the ship keeps sailing. You don’t have time to really get to know the kids, make memories with them, and influence them little by little throughout the year. We don’t always feel that you should let someone down even if you do your best.
Most of us will never sit behind an administrator’s desk, so when we think about how your actions affect us, it’s wise to remember that we can never truly understand all of your decisions because we don’t have your responsibility.
In this regard, there are a few things your teachers will want to know. I am taking the liberty of speaking on their behalf because many people cannot speak freely for themselves. But if they feel comfortable telling you, they’ll probably ask you to consider one of five things you can do to help the students you serve become the best teachers they can be.