Image courtesy of J. E. Theriot
Okay, time for a confession. Despite what anyone might think, I’m not perfect (actually, anyone would be crazy to think that). I make plenty of mistakes on my own and I shouldn’t be digging around in anyone’s life. That being said, I felt it necessary to take some time to discuss a concern I have about how we are treating one another as professionals and simply as human beings. I’ve seen an alarming trend of being overly negative when responding to others online and even face to face. The media and entertainment certainly aren’t helping things either. It seems to me that we have lost a genuine respect for one another as fellow human beings. From internet trolls to late night talk shows, social media to general conversations, it seems that it has become acceptable, maybe even ‘cool’, to mock others or become highly critical of others who don’t think or do things the same way as we do. Even those who are calling on others to be more accepting of others become dismissive and negative towards those who might not feel the same way on certain issues. Do we have to agree with them? No, but we don’t need to be so insensitive and nasty.
Since this is a teaching blog and not meant to be a platform of more general topics, I want to bring this a little closer to home and focus on how we treat other teaching professionals who believe or think differently than we do. I have been guilty of this myself. I have said things on Twitter, in conference presentations, in blog posts, and even in person that I wish I could take back. For the most part, I have not tried to edit those in any way, feeling that it is best that you see me for who I really am, blemishes and all. What I do with those mistakes is what I feel is important. It is vital that I learn from those, move on (don’t dwell since that only makes it worse), and seek out new ways of doing things that are more productive and uplifting to those I come in contact with. I’m not trying to make myself sound better or worse than I am, just laying things out there. There are those who teach, or use assessment, or approach things in the classroom differently than I would. I might be right, but they could also be the one doing things properly. We may even both be wrong or right, or mostly so. It doesn’t matter, I still shouldn’t be so critical. Instead, I should be advising, helping, or guiding. It is all about the attitude. When I do this out of what is best for the student or the person, not to make myself sound smarter or better, and I am thinking about the person and not the action, that is when I can make a difference. If I listen, I might learn.
I have been reading through the book Quiet by Susan Cain and I can’t stop thinking about how I have been so selfish as a teacher not to think about how my actions are affecting those who are introverts. Yesterday, I saw a picture being shared on Twitter about how someone is ‘apologizing’ for their messy, noisy, chaotic classroom since they are busy learning. My immediate thought was how awful is that for the students who don’t work well in a noisy, chaotic situation. I wanted to reply with a sharp retort, but something held me back and I am glad I didn’t do anything. The reason is that I would have replied in the moment and not been very thoughtful. I have had some time to mull over that sign and the teacher who may have put it up in their classroom. They are likely responding to the criticism they have received for not being a traditional classroom with teacher up front dispensing knowledge to the students. They have probably worked hard to find ways to engage the students in the learning process. It is likely that they are doing what they feel is best for the students, finding ways to help them take control of their learning and helping the students feel like they have something to contribute. All of those things are understandable, even commendable. Who am I to make judgements based on one moment captured in a simple sign hanging on a door of an unknown school by an unknown teacher with students I will never meet? It is very possible that I could learn more than a thing or two from this teacher about how to love and care for my students. Would I hang that sign on my classroom door? Not in a million years. Does it get noisy and messy in my classroom? Almost every day. Do I need to change that? Probably, but not completely. I have more things that I need to consider before taking action in that regard.
I want to apologize to anyone out there that I have offended or hurt in any way with my actions or words. You are a living, breathing person who has feelings just as I do. You are likely making decisions based on things you feel are best for that situation. I need to take time to praise you and commend you on the things you do well, and help guide you and help you when you might be straying off path. I might even need to be harsh if the situation calls for it, but I don’t need to be malicious. I just want you to be the best teacher you can be. I also ask you to do the same in return. I may not always take it well, but if you are genuine in your reasons and are looking out for my well being, you can walk away knowing you did what you could. Someday, I might just see that what you did was for the best and thank you for it.