Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Us and Them

Sometimes the rank and file get frustrated with the leadership at our school. We grumble because it seems like they're forever reacting to crises or last minute situations rather than planning ahead. We complain because it seems like there is never a definitive decision, or when there is, there are never any consequences for the staff members who don't do what they are supposed to.

To be honest, some of that happens as a result of our administration giving us too much credit. It's nice to be trusted to behave professionally, but it damages morale when colleagues don't act appropriately and are allowed to continue without consequence.

The issue interests me on a couple of levels. As a person who supervises lots of people every day, I am aware of the responsibilities of authority. One of my biggest complaints is teachers who misuse their authority to elevate themselves over the students, creating a top-down environment in their classrooms. These teachers seem eager to punish students for every infraction; indeed they would tell you that it is part of our job to instill a sense of responsibility in the students.

I don't think such an authoritarian approach is productive. I think students need to feel part of the classroom power structure in order to be fully engaged. So why do I object to such an approach from the administration? Why do I long to see my colleagues held accountable when they fail to meet the expectations established for them? Why did it so annoy me today when I heard an administrator say that a teacher who was clearly not doing what we all agreed must be done should be approached and asked what support she needed.

Why can't I extend the same empathy and compassion to my colleagues that I try to have for my students? Are we not all works in progress?

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