Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Who do you Serve...for real?

I think it is important to know who we serve. We are educators and we are public servants. But who in the public do we serve?
I think a lot of people don't know who they really serve and I think a lot of times you can tell by the actions of others who it is that they serve. Sometimes (often times) a persons actions do not mesh with their words.

I also believe "no one can serve two masters"...though many try to do just that.

I think a lot of people serve themselves.  I think I have certainly fallen into that rut at various times of my professional life. It is a survival mode of sorts. I just needed to get through my day as best as possible. I did what I need to do to not make waves and to not "get in trouble." As long as adults are not upset the kids can be busy and bored and I will survive.

There is another way I've seen people serve themselves. When they serve their ego. The humble bragger, "look how hard I work" self server. Often times the kids do benefit by this sort of self serving. It is a slippery slope though.

I sometimes wish I was one of those people that was comfortable serving the school district as the school district demands. The freedom from cognitive dissonance that "just doing my job" can bring. I'd love to be comfortable in this paradigm. Like a grocery store clerk "I just stock the food on the shelf that they tell me to stock, I don't question its health benefits." There is a board approved curriculum and it is my job to teach to the curriculum. The various assessments tell me if the student learned the curriculum, and therefore if I did my job well. Plain and simple. No muss no fuss.

Nobody wants to admit being a servant to the tests, but if it's constantly your school's topic of discussion, then what is being served? Some will say that they use test scores to see how well they serve the children/parents/community , but I don't buy it.

I think the hardest group of people to truly serve are the children. Most educators will say they serve the children, and a decade ago (or so) I would have said that as well, but I really don't know how many people truly do that.  The bureaucracy of it all makes it really difficult to serve the children well. The job expectations, the standardized rules and expectations make it hard to let the child's curiosity lead the way and  help them discover answers to their own questions. It isn't feasible to facilitate all the various learning paths of the individual children while also "getting through the approved curriculum."

Of course, there are some people that somehow think they know what the kids need and it just happens to align with the standards and curriculum. "I know what is best for my students and I give them what they need whether they like it or not." These people will also usually bring up a metaphor about making kids brush their teeth or eating their vegetables. This may actually be another form of serving ones self under the guise of serving the children. Who knows?

I'm sure there are holes in my thinking and I am sure I am missing some perspectives. What do you think? Who do you serve? Do your actions align with your words?

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Artist Assistant

I facilitate a two hour session each year with our district's new teachers. One of the things I share with them is my hope that they are not in the teaching field so that kids can fulfill  some void in their life.

I want the teachers to fulfill the needs of the kids. I hope that they aren't using the kids to fulfill their own unmet needs.

That is why I sometimes struggle when I hear that teaching is a performing art and that great teachers are artists. I feel that it views kids as clay for the artist teacher to mold. Or the student as the blank canvas for the teacher to do their master work.

Many educators certainly do eat up the teacher as artist narrative which leads me to believe it is meeting a need of the adult.

It makes teachers the focus. It makes teachers the martyr or the super hero.

I much prefer to view the  kids as the  artists, and the adult as the artist assistant who gives the child what she needs to help her grow into a more  creative more confident creator and artist.

I understand that we all want to feel valued and needed, but why isn't meeting the needs of the child reward enough?

However, if we are going to continue to do school as it has traditionally been done, then I suppose teacher as performing artist is much preferable than teacher as dictator.

I also suppose that there may be an art involved in being a good artist assistant.