Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Stressed? Do Something Productive

This is an open letter addressed to a dozen teachers I normally get to see at lunch during the school year. Our lively lunch topics vary, but inevitably we end up talking big ideas about the culture within our building and our school district. We wonder aloud about the decisions made by our leaders and we sometimes get discouraged by the environment and political process. The underlying conclusion I have drawn is that teachers should stick together and influence their local districts by elevating their collective voice. Ultimately, when we have a collective voice grounded in our professional values we support our students ... and one another. No one is proud to admit it, but sometimes all that stands between good teachers settling for mediocrity are students and colleagues. Our journey in my high school is probably very similar to the journey across staff lounges throughout the country.

“I drank a lot of wine. I lowered my professional standards. And then I left the public school arena.”  
- A teacher in response to how she coped with stress

To My Brothers & Sisters at the Lunch Table,

Although individual options vary about how to manage stress in our careers as educators the piece titled, Stressed Out! What Can Teachers Do About It? will help you see you're not alone ... and there are ways to make it better. With parent-teacher conferences around the corner and the teacher evaluation process underway, the adrenaline of September seems a distant memory now.   

The above option (drinking a lot of wine) is not one I am endorsing, but I suppose it could be tempting to some following a confusing and disheartening round of lay-offs. Expectations to carry out  half-baked initiatives lacking a clear purpose may be stifling your creativity and motivation, but contrary to the quote above you are passionate and generally optimistic. That is exactly why you need to make your positions clear to our leadership. Teachers are experts and our ideas are critical to decision-making.

Soon, our Board of Education will interview and hire a full-time superintendent of schools. I hope you will get involved in the process even if it means you have to push, pull, drag or backdoor yourself into the process ... be heard. Next November, three Board of Education seats will be up for election so get a head start now.

In a profession and environment that may lack support for teachers, the story linked here reminds us to get back to very important and basic ideas like building relationships with students, using technology to connect with other teachers or even switching schools.

Do yourself a favor and click the link when you have a mindful minute or two to spare (placing it here again) and think about the most important aspects of our profession. Why are you a teacher?   

While it can seem daunting to influence politics at the state level, we can make our voices heard in our school district. Soon, we can have ownership in WHO WE HIRE as superintendent and the PRIORITIES that will drive the final selection by our elected board. Whatever your own brand of leadership and communication, be heard. We are the professionals who know best what our students need. If we choose to own this indisputable fact and elevate our voices in the political process our students will be better off because of our effort.
We got this,

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