Thursday, June 27, 2013

"Professionalism Is as Professionalism Does"

I have just finished reading "The 10 Minute Inservice" by @ToddWhitaker and @AnnetteBreaux. If you have not read this book, it has a lot of great resources for both administrators and teacher leaders. I have already emailed a few suggestions to my colleagues from this book. I highly recommend getting your hands on this very practical approach to quality PD for a school staff.

The one part of the book that really has me thinking is the chapter entitled "Professionalism Is as Professionalism Does". The authors do a great job of describing ways to handle "Negative Nellies" in a school environment. Of course, their approach is that there are not any in our school, but if you ever were to run into is what you do. Very tricky approach to addressing the elephant in the room without calling it by name!

What made me sit down and write was the impact that simple title had on me. How easy is it to complain about a student, a class, a lesson or program instead of buckling down to improve the situation? How easy is it to "pile on" when a colleague starts this kind of a session? We need to remember we are professionals.

This should be magnified, in my opinion, when we are talking to people outside of the school building. The conversations we have about our profession need to be positive. I constantly have conversations with several friends during the school year that are not in education. I have noticed how the tone of the conversations has changed since I forced myself to remain as positive as possible. This change was considered after I had a friend comment: "Yeah, but you get summers off, so a tough class isn't that bad, right?" That comment hit me like a ton of bricks!

That is when it dawned on me that educators need to be positive about our profession all of the time. It can not be limited to just school hours, or while we are in the building. We need to work very hard at keeping a positive spin on what we do.

I am not naive. I know we all have days, weeks or months where we want to pull our hair out. With every passing year, my hair is getting greyer and greyer. We have students, classes or parents that just make us want to scream. Go ahead and scream. Get it out. IN PRIVATE! After you do that, get back to being positive. The public needs to know that our job is tough, but there is no place else we would rather be!

Like I mentioned earlier, being professional all of the time is tough. There are days when we do not feel like being positive. We are tired. Our programs are underfunded. We have ridiculous mandates passed down from our state legislatures. But, you know what? My experience has shown me most of the public does not care. If we want to be seen as professionals, we need to act professionallly. All of the time. Every day. Don't our students deserve the effort?

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Stop Being A Teacher in Order to Lead Them?

I was sitting in my Superintendent's office a few weeks back for my annual review. We were discussing my progress on obtaining my Principal's Certificate. This is something I have been working on for several years, and I believe I have recently cleared the last hurdle in order to obtain it. It was during this conversation that he said something that has really had me thinking the last few weeks: "You seem to really enjoy teaching too much to become a Principal. You need to decide which you want."

These simple statements have had me really thinking since our meeting. What did he mean? Do all Principals want out of the classroom? Do I have to stop being a Teacher in order to lead them?

The title of Teacher is not something I take lightly. I am proud of my profession. I thoroughly enjoy going to work everyday. My daughter did not think I had a job when she was little because I told her everyday that "Daddy is off to school." She thought I traveled the yellow bus every morning like the other kids! I work very hard at constantly trying to improve my instruction and classroom environment. Even after 17 years, I find new things to get excited about when entering in September. These are things I do not want to give up...regardless of how much I would like to climb the Educational Ladder.

After a lot of contemplation, I view my Superintendent's comments with a hidden message: Do not forget how hard the teachers work in the building. Do not forget how they struggle everyday to keep a classroom full of students engaged and learning. Do not forget the frustration they feel when the state decides things need to change; even though the present method was working perfectly. Do not forget that they need feedback and coaching, never an evaluaton system that is a "Gotch!" form of assigning a number to their performance. Never forget that even though they are adults, Teachers need a role model in the building that reflects a positive message throughout the building. That role model is their leader.

My view of a Leader contains a lot of the same characteristics described above. That leader has a larger role when becoming a Principal, but the core traits remain the same. The individuals you are leading have grown in number and age, but they are looking for someone that challenges them and is fair. That sounds a lot like how I run my classroom. I hope I never stop being called a Teacher, regardless of what job I may have. To me, there is only a couple of words that are better: a Husband and a Father.