Sunday, September 6, 2009

Conference is a Noun

I read a fair number of teacher blogs, some for inspiration, some for validation, some for shared experience, and some just for the are-you-kidding-me? factor. I think that almost all teachers want what's best for their students and work in good faith and to the best of their ability to provide that. I know that teaching can be frustrating, though, and working day after day in what you feel is a lose-lose situation will erode your dedication. The other side of that coin is arrogance-- the certainty that you know without question what your students, their parents, and the administration should do. If only they would keep their side of the bargain, all those children would be successful.

Knock on wood that I'll never be that first case, but I have to admit that the second category of teacher reminds me of my earlier self. I can almost pick out their blogs by the stridency in their voices and that certain incredulous tone to the tales of the mishaps and malapropisms that they are burdened with. When posting assignments for their students, they use the words "all" and "must" a lot, as well as bold font and all caps to emphasize the importance of certain directions, such as these I read just tonight: Reminder: ALL students must conference with me AND a peer before September 18.

Such assertive confidence can propel an inexperienced teacher through the first few years, perhaps with great success, but it usually lacks empathy, which is what my experience has taught me to be the most productive approach to students, parents and colleagues. Empathy doesn't remove all the frustrating episodes of teaching, but it helps to alleviate the frustration. Not to mention that if we stand in judgment of others, we must be prepared for others to judge us just as harshly.

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