15 May Instead of Waiting for Superman, why not save Superman?
I have to admit that I hadn’t watched Davis Guggenheim’s documentary Waiting for Superman until last weekend because 1) it had a long wait on Netflix and 2) I was in no hurry to see it since I was sure it was just going to be another condemnation of teachers from a non-educator’s point of view.
Before becoming a productivity consultant, I taught for 11 years, and my husband has been teaching for 17. He teaches (as did I) at a Title I school where 100% of the students are in the free breakfast and free lunch programs. When folks hear where we teach, they literally make a slight bow with their heads and say in a lowered voice, “Oh, that’s a tough spot.”
We both busted our butts every day to come up with amazing lessons that would entice the kids to learn. He – as do all passionate educators – deal with the daily ups and downs of a classroom teacher. One day there’s a break-through and all of the kids’ eyes light up with wonder. The next, there’s one kid in each class who acts like a complete jerk and ruins the class for everyone. Another day, a compliment is received from a colleague. The next, an administrator is asking why all of that late work can’t be accepted so the teacher won’t have such a high failure rate. And then the nail in the coffin is the news story on the front page at the end of the week that blasts teachers for doing a lousy job of preparing students for the real world.
Sucky teachers don’t care about any of that. (Yeah, that’s right, I said “sucky”. Unfortunately, they exist.) Lousy teachers just show up to collect a paycheck. They go through the motions of handing out worksheets – if that much – and just sit back and wait for the bell to ring. They don’t care about news stories or blanket admonishments of the staff during faculty meetings. If they did, they wouldn’t be the crappy teachers that they are.
Who does get hurt by the roller coaster of emotions? The passionate teachers who you do want teaching your kids. The teachers who are constantly thinking of the next great lesson, the better way to express a concept, the way to save the world. Those are the teachers who are nurturers, who love and care…and who, because of that personality type, take every minute on that roller coaster so personally. They become tired of being a verbal punching bag. So they leave. And so does that passion.
Instead of waiting around for Superman, we need to save the Supermen and Superwomen who are already there. These are the teachers who instill a love of learning in students. These are the teachers who don’t skill and drill, but instead inspire creativity and inspiration and get kids to think and ask questions. Do you remember what it’s like to wonder? Awesome teachers know how to make that happen in their students. And they make it all look so easy.
What you may not realize is that Super-teacher has gotten to school by 7 AM and while they perhaps left by 4:15 PM, they worked at home for three hours each evening that week plus all day on Saturday to grade papers, plan incredible lessons, and grade some more. And what is their thanks? A headline that basically says, “You Suck.” A paycheck that says, “You’re not as deserving or important as a doctor or attorney or professional athlete.” An announcement at a faculty meeting: “You’re not doing enough; you need to do more.”
All that kryptonite will kill Superman. If you know a passionate teacher, you need to be that person who will lift the kryptonite away from Superman’s neck. You don’t have to do it for every teacher in America. Just start small. Start with one you know, or one who one of your friends knows. Say, “Thank you for your long hours.” “Thank you for what you do.” “Thank you for making a difference for even just one child.” “Thank you for trying when others have given up.”
Oh, wow. I was supposed to be writing my review of a movie I didn’t want to see. Well, here it goes…
(…to be continued in my next post, so stay tuned!)