27 May 2007

Tiptoe Through the Minefield

In the classroom, kids would tell me things...all kinds of things. If you're a teacher, you know this all too well. There are some things you don't really want to know, a few of which fall into the category "must act on this information." While referrals to the counseling office, Child Protective Services, admins, or sometimes parents aren't always the most pleasant task, it is always done with the intent of trying to support the child (no matter what the age).

But what happens when teachers tell you things?

My role within the district is a bit of an odd one. As someone in my office likes to point out, we teachers who work in Curriculum have all of the responsibility, but none of the authority when it comes to working with the schools. This doesn't mean, however, that other teachers see us in that light. I get all sorts of things whispered in my ear about what's happening with various departments and programs. It frustrates me because as much as I am ready, willing, and able to listen to whatever teachers wish to share, I'm often powerless to do anything about it. But if not me, than who?

This part is a minefield that I'm still learning to traipse. Some things---like complaints about other teachers---are not things I can or should touch. This means finding the most diplomatic route to get the right administrator to peek in on situations. This has it's own set of perils. Teachers can't really complain about other teachers because they're in the same "bargaining unit." The contract covers everyone, there can be no member-member issues; however, as soon as an administrator gets involved, it turns into a (potential) union issue. In other words, there really isn't a simple way to tell a teacher to do his/her job. (Except in Texas. I loved a story about people from this district who went to visit a few schools down there. Someone from here asked teachers there about union issues. The response? "We don't need 'em. If there's a problem with a teacher, we take care of it ourselves.")

Other items---like board policies that aren't followed---are even more dicey. Who tells an admin that s/he's not monitoring a situation? What happens when a trainer is doing something inappropriate? Like it or not, Boss Lady 2.0 is my current conduit to dealing with most of these things. I don't mind this so much. What I do mind is teachers getting the impression that no one cares about their problems. To me, the main difference between most of what teachers lay at my feet vs. what they tell The Union is that the things I hear come from a place that is (for the most part) student-centered. I don't want to lose these voices from our district or have them feel that their concerns aren't valid. It's just a matter of learning how to tiptoe along the right pathways to do the best we can for the kids in our classrooms.

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