Friday, February 28, 2014

Remaining Positive

What a question!

So my state has become one of the examples of the war against public employees and teachers in general. Our governor continues to press onward in his quest to reform the educational system and destroy any motivation for young people to enter the field of education. There is a public relations campaign to create a sense of crisis and turmoil in our schools, and those members of the public who know very little about the system believe that those employed within education are receiving bloated salaries and benefits packages and half-year schedules. Internet comment sections scream, "I pay taxes, so I'm your boss!" Education bosses swoop in to make changes based on the publishing company who can offer the best finding fees or future jobs. Federal mandates dictate from afar the way a student must be taught, and standardized tests are designed for failure to prove that schools are not educating students.

It's pretty hard to stay positive. Depending with whom you speak, it's pretty close to impossible. I have spoken to educators all over the state who have a lot of similar things to say. I'll spare any sensitive ears (eyes?) from the words that are often used. It suffices to say, they're not positive.

Connecting with educators on social media has given me the ability to surround myself with the types of people who see beyond the negative aspects against which me must fight to see that there are still students who want and need to be led down educational roads. We discuss the projects we use to make standards mastery possible and engaging. We discuss tools, tips, and tricks that allow us to engage even the most reluctant learners. We look at the reasons reluctant learners are reluctant in order to put together strategies to bring them along with their peers. We celebrate even the smallest victories for our students, and we shout down the negative to prove that we are above it, and our students will not be denied access to the learning because of public perceptions and media spin.

Despite this persistence and commitment, I look at the educators I have known on my journey. I have watched as longevity statistics are proven again and again. Richard M. Ingersoll's research estimates "that between 40% and 50% of new teachers leave within the first five years of entry into teaching." I read the comment threads that follow education articles. I feel the very real strain of taking pay cuts disguised as added contributions (when there's less money coming in than there was, that's a pay cut - at any level of semantic argument). As a supervisor, I see the regulations that are here and the ones that are coming , and I know the challenge of being a teacher is only going to become greater.  The great irony is that the students are rarely the problem. They give us our direction, inspiration, and joy in our work.

But that's why it's so critical to remember the negative as we fight to stay positive. We cannot effectively instruct our students to be amazing critical thinkers and forget to think critically ourselves. We must recognize the wrong in the world and work diligently to right it. So many of the educators in my PLN cite Gandhi and post "Be the change you want to see in the world." And so many then dictate that you must ignore the negative and push forth the positive.  The danger here is that in our positivity, we must be careful not to have our heads buried so far in the sand that we don't recognize what's happening around and to us.

So how do I answer the question? I wrestle. Day in and day out I wrestle. I wonder if Diane Ravitch and others who fight so tirelessly to advocate for education see the positive amid the numerous tweets and blog posts about all the dangerous negatives. I wonder if the positive energy I seek to instill in my teachers is enough to overcome the pressures put on them from outside sources. I wonder exactly which fights are worth fighting and which are just cases of me banging my head against a wall. I do know that there are a lot of great teachers in our system doing a lot of great work. I know that I love working to support my teachers every day. I know that they keep me vibrant and always striving to be better, and I know that I love coming to work because of them. It might not be much, but it's what I've got.

How do you deal with the negativity?

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