Friday, April 15, 2011

Week 26: The Old Guard

The last couple times the entire faculty in my school has had discussions as a group I’ve been really impressed with the level of discourse. This is a group of people, almost two hundred who are able to have intelligent, informed and positive discussions about challenging issues.

One thing that I’ve found in these discussions is that there are a couple veteran teachers who have the amazing ability to put issues into historical context and frame the discussion is a meaningful way.

Now having the “old guard,” around isn’t always a good thing. People who have worked for a long time at the same place sometimes can become bitter and negative. One reason it’s hard to be a veteran teacher is because similar issues often arise year after year and it can be aggravating to have these discussions repeatedly.

But these aren’t the kinds of veteran teachers at my school

The teachers that I have met who have been around at my school for decades are not the negative examples used to argue against teachers unions. People often cite a teacher who has tenure as someone who cannot be fired so they mail in their job waiting until they retire so they can get their pension.  Even though I’ve met these kinds of teachers, thankfully from my experiences, these teachers are the minority. Furthermore, the veteran teachers at my school could not be more different than this negative stereotype.

I’m thinking of one of the kindergarten teachers I’ve gotten to know. She’s one of the hardest working teachers I’ve met. While the things that kindergarten teachers teach like how to be nice to each other seem like not much of challenge to teach, when you talk to her, you realize there really is a science and art in teaching these basic, but fundamental parts of education.

As a new member of the school community, it is vital that I have a historical perspective of the school that is not expressed through bitterness and complacency. I was hired because I have a unique background and viewpoint on education that the administration and faculty actively encourage me to express. However, without historical context, my comments aren’t informed and relevant.

I talked to this kindergarten teacher the other day to thank her for sharing her thoughts in meetings and how much she helped me understand the school.  To my surprise, she encouraged me to speak up and share not only my ideas but my thoughts and my feelings with others.  In the same way I am grateful for her perspective, she expressed to me the importance of my perspective as a new teacher and how much she valued what I had to offer to the community.

While I’m not sure how much I really have to teach a veteran teachers, it’s nice of her to express the potential she sees in me. This attitude, this approach to learning from me as a rookie to a veteran and a veteran to the new kid on the block is what education is really about.

No comments:

Post a Comment