Once upon a time, I was asked “What one thing would improve your life as a teacher?”
It was a difficult question to answer because there are just so many things that are lacking in my classroom, at my school, in my district, across the nation and around the world that impact my teaching life.
But my final response was “autonomy.”
I just wanted to be given the freedom to determine my actions in the classroom, at the endless meetings I am required to attend and in my life outside of school. I did not feel then, and I still do not feel autonomous in any way. Mandates rule my life. And the mandates are ever-changing and often conflict with each other. They nearly always conflict with what I believe to be best practices.
And much later, but very recently, I blogged about it.
Today, I would like to change my answer to that question.
I want to be trusted.
I want my administration team to trust that I am doing everything I possibly can to educate and nurture (not that nurturing matters to them) the children in my care.
I want them to trust that when I push back against ridiculous mandates, I have excellent reasons for doing so.
I want them to trust that I know what I’m doing when I am lenient with my kids in some situations and rigid with them in others.
I want them to trust that when I speak about developmental delays, physical or psychological problems or any of a myriad of issues, I am not making something up because I don’t want that child’s issues to be blamed on me. I just want my kids to get the recognition and help that they deserve BEFORE they reach an upper grade.
I want them to trust that I know how to teach children to read and write. I know how to teach math and science and social studies. I know how to teach kids to walk in a hall and eat in a classroom or lunchroom. I know how to encourage empathy and kindness. I know how to teach boys how to use a urinal and how to teach all my kids that toilet paper is called toilet paper because it goes IN the toilet and not in the trash can. This paragraph could be endless. But I want them to trust that I know HOW TO TEACH what my kids NEED to know WHEN they need to know it.
I want to be trusted that when I go off of a lesson plan, it is a righteous move for any of thousands of reasons.
I want to be trusted to “test” my kids MYSELF. Don’t hand them off to someone they don’t know and with whom they have not built up trust. Believe me, their results will be skewed. I won’t cheat on or for my kids even when the stakes from the tests are high and could mean the end of my career.
The nation does not trust teachers. Media, big businesses and their leaders, state and federal governments all have conspired to convince the populace that teachers are inherently bad. We are liars, cheaters, under-educated, overpaid, lazy… I can’t go on with this list because it is so demeaning and wrong. You leave your kids with us every day, but you don’t trust us? You hired me based on I-don’t-know-what, but you don’t trust me to teach the students you assigned to my care?
Is that too much to ask?