It’s no secret that I often feel like an outsider. At work. In life. My mom has always told me that my expectations for myself and others are unrealistic. I’ve always resented that. But my therapist thinks my mom might be right. I think. But maybe that’s just what I am expecting her to say. Anyways, I often feel like an outsider at work. Sometimes I am. Sometimes it’s just the story I tell myself. So I search online for communities of like-minded people. I am on twitter, Instagram, and facebook. I gave up on Snapchat. There are just no good educational uses for Snapchat. On twitter, I’ve found some friends. No, really, some people I would actually now called friends. It’s hard to meet other teachers in real life because you’re stuck in your building all day, but online, you can make teacher friends, even if they live a few suburbs over or across a state or across the country. On Instagram, I mostly just gawk at people. I gave up on the #teachersofinstagram tag because it was just making me feel bad. How can photos of teachers make you feel bad, you might ask? Well, I’m glad you did. On Instagram, there are teachers who have the perfect font. The perfect bulletin boards. The perfect background paper. The perfect matching neon rainbow-colored book bins with color-coded binders and ribbons to match. The perfect file cabinets painted in black chalk paint with turquoise blue washi tape around the edges. The perfect library. And even the perfect teacher clothes. Nope. No thank you. I can’t. I literally cannot. I can’t even. Where do I even start? With my color-clashing pilfered book bins and scraps of cardboard laying around, there isn’t much that looks “perfect,” I’m sure. But this is dangerous for a perfectionist like me. (I seriously WANT the perfect turquoise with white polka-dotted ribbon!) And I have to physically say OUT LOUD “It’s okay NOT to APPEAR perfect.” That is hard. But, I can do hard things.
So, I started joining teacher groups on Facebook. This can also become a slippery slope in the same capacity as “Teachers of Instagram” and you have to weed out some things. Groups where teachers sell things. No thanks. Groups where teachers post their TPT worksheets with cutesy little sketched children with chubby cheeks and swirly boarders. No thanks again. Don’t get me wrong. I like a good worksheet if it’s serving the purpose. But I don’t do worksheets regularly. And I don’t make stuff with cutesy kids. Give me a simple paper with a purpose. Or give me another way to learn it. Tangent.
But then I found some groups that I thought were going great. Assistive Technology group. Nice! STEM Teacher Tribe. Good good. Teachers Using Google Classroom. I like it. Teach with Tech. Good. I can’t say I have found my people, but at least I have a community where I can go to ask and answer questions and feel like I am actively getting better at this thing.
Until last week. Last week, a first-year teacher in one of these groups posted a question. The post started with “Help with STEM Classroom Management!” Now, I’ll stop. When someone posts that they need help, I’m on it. I like to be helpful. I also have a certificate in behavior intervention so I’m thinking, “Yes! I can help.”
Now, I read on… “ I gave out a class syllabus and safety paper that needed to be signed by guardians and the student and returned. I have only gotten a handful back from each class. I have added it as a grade to try to motivate the students who did not turn it in to get it in. What do I do for the students who challenge me and refuse to turn it in? I really want to hold them accountable.”
MmmmmK. So, my irritation levels start mildly rising, but sure. Someone told her (or showed her in the past) that assigning a grade to something useless is a good motivator. Errrgh. The kids who are motivated by points and grades have already returned the paper. The kids who care to return the paper have already returned the paper and the parents who care, yep, those kids have returned the paper already too. But, you can’t just say that on the internet, can you?
So, I read on in her post and she goes on to say that they are about to complete an activity with marshmallows involved and wants to know what to do with kids who eat the marshmallows when she told them not to. She told these kids she would send them to the office and they ate the marshmallows anyway.
Listen, these are not hard concepts, are they?
When I got this post, there were already dozens of comments from other “experienced” teachers.
“ Follow through and send them to the office.”
“Give them worksheets while they watch other kids do fun activities until they return the paper.”
“Take away all the tools.”
“Make them sit and watch.”
“Worksheet them to death.”
Well, now my irritation levels have risen significantly.
So, I start my reply with “Wow, I’m shocked by the responses to this…”
First, grades should be reserved for the assessment and reporting of learning, no? NO LEARNING occurs by having a paper signed. Sure, maybe you want that paper signed. But for a grade? No.
Second, classroom management does not occur just because you think it should. You have to take some time to form relationships. And if you aren’t letting kids eat marshmallows during the marshmallow activity, they sure as heck aren’t going to do much for you. Just sayin'.
Third, “worksheet them to death?” My God! No wonder kids hate school and start to hate teachers.
Having said that, I tried to diplomatically say such things in the Facebook group.
To which I got responses such as “I’m offended.”
Okay, I thought. We’re not doing that here.
Who remembers that story by Glennon Doyle, one of my most favorite authors? She started out on Facebook by filling out one of those age-old questionnaires asking “personal” questions. And after she pressed post, walked away, and then returned, she realized “Oh, we’re not doing that here.”
“That” = being honest.
People are so uncomfortable with honesty.
But shouldn’t we be happy that someone is questioning our practices and making us better teachers?
Shouldn’t we welcome another teacher asking about our motives and checking us on the things we do out of habit or convenience?
Shouldn’t we be begging for other teachers to just engage with us about our teaching practice and making us better?
But no. Apparently, we aren’t doing that here.
So, where are we doing that?
Glennon does it.
Liz does it.
Brene does it too.
Oprah seems like she does it.
So TEACHERS, where ARE we doing that?