Over the past few years, I have had the opportunities to attend workshops and various meetings and meet many teachers that were neither at my school site nor even in my district or city. It was interesting and intellectually stimulating to have conversations with new people and faces. I was able to learn about the curriculum they use, how they manage their student populations, and different policies in their districts. For me, it was a great learning opportunity but something was missing. I was not being inspired. What was missing in these conversations?
After my first few years teaching, I realized that I did not enjoy going to many social events with some of the teachers I worked with. It wasn't because I thought they were bad people or didn't like them. I have some amazing people on my staff. It was just that once we all got together outside of school, the conversation always turned into everything that was wrong with our school and teaching. (I have done my fair share of complaining as well.) These interactions got very disheartening to hear after a few minutes and I did not want it to be the focus of my free time. Therefore, I limited my social gathering with teachers to a group of my close teacher friends. I'm sure as teachers, we have all been in situations at a restaurant or a coffee shop with a friend and we start complaining about work. That's just human nature and we all need an opportunity to voice our frustrations. I am beginning to wonder though; do our frustrations outweigh the joy we find in our career? If I put all of the things I love about teaching on one side of a scale and all of the things I find challenging on the other side, which side would be greater? What about if you did this? I also wonder, all of those times I have been with a group of teachers complaining about our jobs, who heard us? What is their opinion of public education after they heard us whining?
This brings me back to all of the new teachers I have met over the last year. I realized what was missing from these conversations. I can count on one hand how many times I have heard another teacher tell me why they love their job or a story about something that made them happy at their school. I know teachers really care about their profession or else the majority of them would not be doing it. However, I feel that we spend too much time focusing on the negative aspects of our career. We then share those stories with others which in turn bring them down and then they complain to someone else and on and on it goes.
This was a big a-ha moment for me. I can see how I have contributed to this negative energy at my site. My challenge for myself is to speak with positivity about my field. I want to let others know why I love my career and share the successes I have had. Success stories are inspirational and focus on good things about teaching. I also plan to share funny stories about the events of my day and my students. It is true when they say that kids say the darnedest things! These stories will make people laugh instead of scowling about teaching. At the end of the work day, wouldn't you rather be laughing instead of fuming? Aren't you more drawn to the people who make you smile and not the ones who make you angry? It's been said before and I'll repeat here. You can't control everything that happens in your life but you can control your attitude in which you respond.
I'll finish with this quote from Diane Ravitch in her book, The Death and Life of the Great American School System. "Even more surprising was how few voices were raised on behalf of the democratic vision of public education." Is your voice making us look bad or are you raising your voice on behalf of public education?