The worst advice Ive ever received when it comes to dealing with people was, Joe, always expect the worst from people, so youll never be disappointed. The sad thing about that advice was that it came from another teacher (who was older and more experienced than I).
One of my many teaching philosophies is that I cant raise your standards by lowering my expectations. I believe that most teachers buy into that philosophy when it comes to our students. We cant expect our students to perform well by expecting less of them. However, many teachers dont believe that philosophy when it comes to the teachers they work with and spend time with at school. And that has to change.
My main reason for becoming a teacher trainer was to make sure we in the United States retained, sustained, and supported the best teachers in our field. Thats also the reason I agreed to write this column. However, Ive received a number of questions from colleagues asking how to respond and perform within a negative school environment (i.e., working around toxic teachers). As difficult as it is to believe, the Teachers Lounge now has evolved into a Toxic Lounge at many schools -- a place where frustrated teachers go to dump their emotional and mental waste on unsuspecting, dedicated teachers.
This situation has caused me serious concern. We as teachers already face enough negativity from the public and media without having to worry about dissention and tension within our own ranks. This month, therefore, Im asking you to raise your standards when it comes to your colleagues (not just when it comes to your students).
I want you to do an inventory of the teachers with whom you spend most of your time. Make a list if you have to. Ask yourself: Who do I normally eat lunch with? Who do I sit next to during teacher meetings? Who do I spend time talking to at school when Im NOT teaching? Who do I talk to in the teachers lounge? In other words, whos influencing me?
Regardless of the number of teachers you can think of, I want you to ask yourself the following question concerning each teacher you named: Would I want this person teaching MY child?
Then, I want you to start spending less time this month with any person on your list of teachers who received a No, and more time with those teachers who received a Yes. If no teacher on your list received a yes, make it your business to befriend a teacher at your school who would. Remember, you cant raise your standards by lowering your expectations -- that includes your colleagues.
Until next time, remember to teach with passion and to practice what you teach.
Article by Joe Martin
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