This post is a bit ‘venty’ but I’ve got lots kicking around in my head.
In the last couple of months I have been thinking about my ‘values’ as a teacher. More specifically, how do I align my ‘personal’ values from my ‘professional’ ones, the values of my school and the ‘expectation’ around what I consider to be acceptable behaviour (for want of a better term) for my profession.
Today, in a fit of unprofessional frustration, I said (talking about figuring something out for ICT) ‘I am getting slightly tired of people asking me to find things out for them that they could find out/figure out by themselves’. I meant it too. Which, to my mind, means I was borderline on the professional boundaries line – controlling my temper is certainly something I am aware of and don’t always do as well as I would like, especially with fellow staff – somehow I have a magic switch and it doesn’t seem to be an issues with students.
I the got told ‘you need to remember you LIKE this stuff, it is a hobby for you’
This throw away comment crushed me today.
I nearly cried.
I am still fuming
Helping staff is not a hobby. It is actually part of my job, I get two hours a week release time and an MMA towards it. Which is not enough – I probably average about 3 hours a week in contact time with staff and then some more planning and designing in the back ground. I have talked over trying to balance this more, but when some-one comes into your class room when you are teaching with an urgent problem, I don’t want to turn them away.
But perhaps I need to. Learned helplessness isn’t just affecting students, it is grossly affecting teachers too. This expectation and demand for ‘PD’ when, really, in my view, I should be working hard to make sure I can be the best teacher I can be. Not just when my school sets aside an hour to learn something, or pays an horrendous amount to get speakers in. Some of my fellow staff won’t even give educamps or teachmeets a go – the value of these events in my mind is enormous. We (in schools and society too I suppose) need to stop linking value to price. Cliched, but some of the best things in life are free.
But also, when I set aside time to help people, I generally only have a few show up. Which is actually ok at the time. We usually have a really productive time and make great progress. But it then really urks me when people come and find me at others times – I have had to go to my principal and make announcements in staff meetings to ask people to stop interrupting me when I am teaching (or worse, I had some-one come and find me during an exam supervision). To me, this is supreme arrogance. Why is my time less ‘important’ than theirs, and why is my students time less important than theirs.
I get that people are busy, tired, things come up and we get grabbed away at a moments notice. But if you are too busy to get better at doing your job, you are not doing your job as well as you can. That is a professional value I will stand beside all day long.
So how do I set up boundaries to keep myself sane and safe while still openly helping people when they need it and meeting the needs of my students? At the moment I am not doing this so well, and need to work on it.
This comment was also a reminder about the power of throw away comments and perceptions. How something flippant to you can really impact on others, and how as a teacher I need to remember this more often that I do so I don’t make others as unhappy and uncomfortable as I am.
But more hurtful, the person concerned must have no idea what I actually do, and what my hobbies are. How can you work along side some-one and know so little about them. For me, teaching and learning is all about relationships. Seeing a struggling science student light up when you ask them about the go cart, or the horses, or their new born niece can make my day. Building relationship is something I need to work hard at – I sometimes hear but don’t listen without meaning too. I give automatic replies to genuine questions. But I do try really hard to build relationships with my students and my colleagues – one of my favourite sayings is ‘being a ‘good’ person is more important than being ‘good’ at Science’
I don’t go home and spend time on sharepoint tutorials or designing revision tasks or thinking nerdy pedagogy thoughts because it is my hobby. I do it because it is part of my job. A part I am passionate about to be sure, but I also go home and look up sport results, or go carts, because building relationships is important too.
But then what professional boundaries do I need to put in place? I struggle with this sometimes too – when you get the really good curly questions in genetics for example. Or at election time when students ask who you are voting for. I don’t want my ‘personal’ belief to impact theirs (others than my beliefs around don’t be a dick and try to be nice to people), and I don’t consider this part of my profession to say which way I vote. I suppose with so many things, it is easy to get wrong some times.
But if you ever meet me, ask about my family. Or about what I am crocheting at the moment. Or I can talk for hours about the cricket. Or tell me about yourself and what ‘little things’ make you tick. Or ask me a ‘big question’ like is Dunedin weather really that bad? or why did you change your name when you married? Why did you take a lesson out of genetics to talk about the genetic basis for homosexuality with yr 10 boys? Why do you drink Gin from a Jam Jar? I don’t know, there are thousands of questions you could ask.
Ollie’s hobby is to destroy my current crochet projects….. I literally have wool stashed all over my house.
Those ‘little’ things are what I value the most, professional and personally. They are not a ‘hobby’.
They run much more deeply than that.