Friday, May 27, 2011

New teachers' idealism is quickly shot down

I recall talking to a friend of mine who happened to be a new teacher a couple of years ago. Like many teachers new to the field, she was naturally concerned about the immense challenge that teaching can be. However, that concern was small in comparison to her optimism and eagerness to try out all sorts of exciting ideas as a means of helping her students succeed.

I was completely surprised at how her outlook had changed the next time I spoke to her just a couple of months later. Her spirit and idealism had apparently been zapped by the more established teachers and her principal. She recounted how everytime she presented a new idea she was met with indifference, apathy and even scorn. How dare she think that she could actually know better than anyone else who had been teaching for years.

Furthermore, the old problem of favoritism reared its ugly head often. I remember asking her "well, maybe the favorite teachers are the ones who are effective and have a record of improving students' scores"?  Actually, I knew better. She made the observation that the favorite teachers were usually the ones who knew enough to never rock the boat, never ask any challenging questions of anybody and were experts at small talking the principal. There was not one favored teachers that was not good at gibberish, she added.

The crowning jewel of just what a joke the school had become was when the principal nominated one of her teachers for the KGNS teacher of the month, and then personally wrote that teacher up in such a way that it was hard not to choose her as that month's winner. In the end, the teacher got the award, the school got some rare positive press coverage, the principal got to keep her job and the kids got cheated out of another year of learning.

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