Why Do We Do This Work of Learning?

“You can buy people’s time; you can buy their physical presence at a given time; you can even buy a measured number of their muscular motions per hour. But you cannot buy enthusiasm… you cannot buy loyalty… you cannot buy the devotion of their hearts. You must earn these.”

Martin Luther King, Jr.

As a student told me once, “You teachers only do this for the money!” Sadly, if you asked me what my salary is, I could give you a general ballpark, but I have no exact idea what it actually is. Part of this comes from moving between a number of positions in the last year, but as I think about it there are bigger reasons I get up each and every morning with a smile on my face…

The students are the biggest reason I am at the school everyday. I always feel like my work has a social value in building a better society for the future. My work has purpose. I can identify that purpose. I can share that purpose. I live by that purpose.

I know I need to be challenged. I believe we create that ourselves as a form of self-fulfilling prophesy, but I know most teachers love their job as it is different each day than it was the day before. Our work is challenging, and I would not have it any other way…

Learning itself is my greatest need in my work role, and I hope that the staff of any of the schools I will work in is always learning and being challenged to look at “How do we do things better?” Not for the sake of change, but for the purpose of helping students learn in wonderful ways. After almost 20 years in formal education, I love and absolutely need to be learning and changing my work each and every day. I want to act as a “pathfinder” to cross the frontier, not to do the “same old same old.”

Listening and talking with Nelson Scott, he identified that often we treat the people who do the best job in the worst manners. We punish them by giving them more work or giving them the harder work. “You are doing well with difficult students, so I am going to give you more difficult students…” As the principal, I need to look at the big picture at all times, but in the end, this comes back to making sure we have the right people in the classrooms to begin with. How do we make sure we do not discourage great work as well?

What about appreciation for their work? Recognition of great work must take on a greater role in my daily agenda. I want others to appreciate the work I do, and recognize that I am working weekends and evenings and every second of the day for something bigger than myself. The best thing I can get is great feedback, of which I would include both positive and glowing, but as well as having the confidence to have people challenge me or give me constructive, or even negative, feedback. This is tough, but it always makes me better. Recognizing the amazing work that the people do needs to be a major piece of my work, and making sure I work with the areas that need to be recognized as not being effective as well.

As an educator and leader, how do we do “proactive recognition?” Recognition for the potential, for taking on challenges, for pushing the bounds, for learning and becoming better… Not always just for something that is already done and complete and finished. Genuine recognition and feedback, on my part, will need to be authentic, but it will also need to be regular and not just for major events. The feedback needs to be regular and often, clear, relevant, and right away. I need to let my staff know that I see good work, and I see areas for growth. The more they (and I) hear, the more we will get used to it being a regular part of the way our school develops.

Amazing how all of this would equally apply not just to adults, but to students in the classroom as well…!

In the end, may you (and your students) wake up each morning and go to work with a smile on your face and a fire in your belly…  🙂

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2 Responses to Why Do We Do This Work of Learning?

  1. mikenzie says:

    We reflected on our students’ most recent writing challenges as we shared and discussed what worked and what didn’t in our most recent lessons – then we started having fun ;). We pulled out and analyzed our student-created rubrics and student work to help us develop strategies to build in peer and self-assessment. Our grade 6 creative writing product (professionally bound book of short stories tied into overcoming our fears) also dominated our conversation!

  2. Laura says:

    The Grade 1 team was working on helping clear out some of the art paper in Room 6 as well as looking at how we will use Sandi as a member of our team in supporting our learners in Grade 1.
    We set up a schedule, looked at student needs and planned groups and lessons accordingly.

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