Friday, March 11, 2011

Week 22: The Leader and The Professional

It’s been a rough couple weeks for teachers in America and it hasn’t eased off.  I’ve been struggling how to react to the news this week. My initial reaction was full of sadness, disappointment and frustration. As much as I would like to react with these emotions, I’m committed to respond with positivity as I have for the past two weeks with my post about unions and last week's post about how it is important how we talk about teachers.

In the same way that only love, not hate can defeat hatred.  I will not react to the critics of teachers, unions and public education with venom, spite or anger.  Instead, I chose to celebrate two fellow teachers I have met this year who inspire me on a daily basis and make me proud to be a teacher.

The Leader
Gandhi said, “A nation’s greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members.” In a school, its faculty is measured by how it treats its newest teachers. Monica has proved through the way that she has welcomed me into this school that this faculty is truly an amazing group of people.

Monica has a full plate teaching seventh grade English, raising her daughters and being the president of our faculty association. I would completely understand if she didn’t have time to help me out with my random questions and geek-out with me about Shakespeare, but she always has the time. For a teacher who is just now starting to not get lost around the school on a weekly basis, this is a big deal.

Monica is a leader in the school not through force by through service.  She has gained authority through her experience, her honesty and her love for her students. My wife commented to me that even though she only met Monica once, she’s one Diana’s favorite people at my school, and if you met her you would immediately understand why.

The Professional
The longer you teach the more lessons you have stored up that you can pull up at a moments notice which is really helpful when you don’t have enough time to prepare for a class. So when you’ve been teaching longer that I’ve been alive, like Kelly, you could easily slide by.  Kelly never does that. She doesn’t see teaching as a job but as a professional practice. Everyday, she’s in early and stays late researching materials and developing lesson plans to best suit her students. 

Kelly is fascinated by her students and displays an eagerness to truly understand them.  These aren't "students," they are people with thoughts, feelings and concerns.  She understands these emotions may not be based on things that we as adults feel are relevant, however the emotions themselves are just as valid as anything we feel.  In this way Kelly truly understands what it means to teach but what it means to be a teacher.   

I make sure to talk to Kelly every single day. Because when I talk to her she makes me feel that I’m important. She listens with her eyes and her heart.  When I recently met someone who had Kelly as a teacher twenty years ago and we talked about her I saw the same light in her eyes and smile on her face that I feel every time I talk to Kelly.

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