The Job Responsibility Of Taking The High Road When Working With, Or For, Young People

Posted: August 31, 2012 in For Educators, For Parents and Guardians, My Thoughts...

Administrators, charters, networks and politicians want to see data illustrating mass student learning and progress.

Educators want to see children in their seats with writing utensils in their hands, paper on their desks, mouths closed (unless they were given permission to speak) and eyes on the board or on them.

Parents want to see report cards filled with A’s and B’s and they want to see their children devoting some time at home to completing assignments and studying for exams.

Clearly, there are giant canyon-sized gaps separating the expectations of critics, administrators and funders of schools, the realities of educators, and the hopes of parents.

Sadly, the likelihood of bridging these gaps, and of putting an end to the relentless game of blaming that all parties are stuck in, is very small. It seems many of us are too deeply entrenched in the habits of blaming and resenting our positions to constructively partner with each other… and I say this not to claim defeat or add to the culture of cynicism that already exists. I say this so we can move forward and find the way to remain constructive with our children and our students, even when it feels impossible.

Complaints and blame are easy… maintaining professional and role integrity is hard. Especially when we’re feeling attacked and/or exhausted. And catching ourselves when we fall into the cliched (and human) habits of martyrdom and resentment  allows us to step forward beyond our bitterness and back to being what we’re supposed to be… good for kids.

While it may be true that no one person can change the whole culture of blaming that is feeding the feuds between governments, administrators, educators and parents… each of us do in fact get to choose how we spend our energy.

Whatever your role… a suit in a government office in Washington… a superintendent in a city hall… a principal with your own private bathroom and faculty members more bitter than you’d like… a teacher with 5 preps and too many under-performing students… a school counselor with too many troubled kids on your caseload… or a parent with a child in a public school that you didn’t choose… if each of us can remember one simple, but all too neglected job responsibility, we’ll end up not only challenging each other to do better, but we’ll also end up being better for the children in our lives.

And this job responsibility is simply to take the highest road possible when in the company of young people. Not to draw attention to yourself (that’s arrogance) and not at the expense of a sense of humor (because that would make your job really crappy) and not to put unrealistic pressure on our children to be perfect (because we do need to teach them how to be humble and graceful with imperfections and mistakes)… but simply to role model the best qualities in people.

Parent. Principal. Teacher. Or President of the United States. If we’re an adult in a position to impact the lives of children, our job responsibilities aren’t limited to the tasks we have to complete (easier as this may be)… our job is also to do and say and role model all the things that are in the best interest of children, and to never make it about our own needs. Whether it’s for 8 hours a day after we’ve punched the time clock at our school, or any moment that we’re in the company of our own children, if you’re doing your best to take the high road, chances are you’ll be the kind of adult that young people need you to be.

Sure, we may annoy some (though not all) of the people we work with. Sure, you may be thought of as or called “righteous” or “holier than thou”… but ask yourself, what matters more? how we’re perceived by our colleagues? or showing young people that integrity and dignity and self-control and perspective and character are qualities that do exist in people?

And if, when some of us are busy taking the high road, we disagree with each other as to what the high road is… just freakin’ (sorry, I would have swore, but I’m trying to take the high road) listen to each other… and keep listening to each other and keep discussing your points of view until you come to some agreement as to what’s best for the kids… because it’s not about getting your way… it’s about getting it right.

And then, when you’re off the clock, not in your classrooms, and not in front of your children, and your need to feel more human rises up (which it always will) and the urge to express your particular neuroses grows (which it always does… especially for me), go right ahead… let the beast out.

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