By Nick McDaniels – Often today, as teachers, we are forced to mask our struggles. In fact, if we make our struggles public, our evaluation could be lowered, our paycheck could be reduced, not to mention the effects on our pride. As a result, we isolate ourselves, close our doors, and tell our bosses and colleagues that everything is going fine, because, as long as they think so, they may not peak in the door to see what is really happening. The culture of high-stakes evaluation has created this isolationism among teachers.
So let me be honest with you about my struggles, perhaps at considerable risk to my reputation as a “good teacher.” I love my job. My job is very challenging. Everyday, at least one of my three lessons falls flat. Everyday, I struggle with classroom management. Everyday, I struggle to stay on top of paperwork. Everyday, I have a negative interaction with a student. Everyday, I feel like someone out there has to be better at this job than I am.
And I, whether I deserve it or not, am thought of as successful in this profession. Feel better?
The work is challenging. That’s why we do it. We should be proud of how challenging it is and be willing to acknowledge our struggles. Cultures of high-stakes evaluation have killed our willingness to be honest with ourselves and each other and it is the forcing of everyday realities into the shadows that prevents meaningful teacher- and student-driven reform from happening in our country.
The more we pretend that everything is fine in order to protect ourselves from lower evaluations, the more we fail to acknowledge that if it is hard for us, it is hard for the kids–only the effects on the kids will amplify throughout their lives.
I encourage you this week, to acknowledge your daily struggles, your weaknesses as a teacher, and to share them with someone else. If we continue to shoulder these burdens alone, our system of education will deteriorate to the point where the countless successes I could write about to parallel this post would be reduced to near zero. At that point, what are we struggling for?