We have a really big problem in education… we don’t listen to teachers. We don’t listen to those professionals who dedicate their lives to teaching students. Let me explain and offer ideas to help.
We Don’t Listen to Teachers
If it is hard to read this, you know how this feels. Every teacher I have ever met has had at least one situation when they have not felt seen or heard. But it is more than one situation, it is bigger, deeper.
Teachers Are Professionals
First, teachers in most states must have a college degree. In some places, teachers may be required to obtain a master’s degree. These people go to college-level schooling to learn how to teach others on many levels, abilities, and subjects. Continuing education is also job-embedded and required. (I won’t negate that some places have waivers and exceptions to fill teaching positions with those who may not have a teaching certificate.)
(To be fair, find teaching statistics and found this site.)
Moreso, teachers are with students day in and day out. They spend their personal time dedicated to their students and their classrooms. And they spend their own money on materials and even may provide clothing and/or food for students. I can not understand why and how we trust grown adults to be around children to educate them for 8 hours a day THEN refuse to believe what they say.
Teachers Don’t Have a Lot of Control
Guess what teachers can’t control? Most everything. They can’t control class size. (Should we even mention the class size waivers to hold even more students in classrooms?!) Teachers don’t control the curriculum or materials provided. And they certainly don’t control the schedule.
Teachers desire more engaging activities to teach with. When they ask for certain supplies to make their classrooms more fun and engaging why don’t we listen? Grants are great but they require hours of time to fill out and submit for the CHANCE to maybe get supplies down the road. Time is something teachers pack. What about an engaging lesson a teacher wants to teach next week? Who is listening?
The expectations for students are also something else teachers can’t control. These are usually set by people who most likely do not know individual students. But when students don’t meet the requirements, why don’t we ask our teachers what is going on?
What if the class is really young and needed more phonemic awareness instead of phonics at the start of the year? After all, the curriculum guide is just a guide and it is created before anyone meets a single student.
It is possible that a class can show great growth but still fall short of “requirements.” It is also entirely possible for a teacher to be amazing and his/her students not be able to show growth from year to the next because those students scored so well the previous year. (You can’t show much growth if you score a 100%.)
Teachers know and understand that each student grows and blossoms at their own pace and it is beautiful. We understand that getting to know a student and their needs is vital to reach a student before you even teach a student. See, teachers know the students and don’t view students as test scores.
When A Student Needs More Support
When a student continues to show signs that they need more support than a classroom teacher can provide, weeks of documentation are required before someone will even come in to observe. We don’t listen to the teachers try to help that child as soon as possible. Instead, we turn teachers into data collectors to validate what teachers already know is true… that a student needs more support.
Some students just need more. And that is okay. For example, what if a student is struggling with speech sounds? Or a student is struggling to keep up with their peers and needing additional services to keep from falling behind? And students struggle with mental illness or need counseling? Teachers, start keeping data because what you say doesn’t matter more than those data points.
When We Get Overwhelmed
Many teachers reach the point of burnout. They have given too much. Their bucket is empty because they gave away too much of themselves. They can’t find the balance between home and work. The meetings are too much. The requirements are weighing them down. Their supervision at school takes up too much time. It is all too much.
Guess what? (I think you know where this is heading.) First, we ask too much of teachers. Then, we take too much. We fail to listen along the way to help teachers help students.
Here is what we do to teachers instead:
-First, if your students perform well, the next year “they” want them to perform even better, even faster.
-Then if you do the paperwork, you seem to find more students who need paperwork on your roster the next year. (Funny how that works isn’t it.)
-Next, if you are great at organizing, someone finds a new committee for you to organize.
-Now, if you are great with behaviors, you are always given more behaviors.
-Lastly, you can’t slack on any of your classroom duties or supervision responsibilities. Pick up of students 5 minutes late is a huge deal, even if you are in an EIP, IEP, SST, MTSS, or parent-teacher conference.
-Don’t you dare ask for a bathroom break or to be excused from an extra curriculum meeting.
Notice I didn’t mention what happens when your real life happens like illness, doctor’s appointments, or family. (Gulp.)
What Can You Do To Listen To Teachers?
- First, listen to teachers. When they ask for things, try to get them for them. When they need help, provide it or find a way to bring the request up the chain. Don’t view asking for help as a negative.
- Ask teachers for suggestions when they present a problem. They may have some good suggestions to give. They see things from a different point of view and that is a good thing. Someone feels valued when they are listened to and taken seriously.
- Stop piling on unrealistic expectations and requirements. Keep things real. MORE is not better. FASTER is not better. Sometimes better is not better.
- Show appreciation for the small things. I can’t tell you how meaningful a handwritten note can be to a teacher. We don’t need a small prize. A simple note of thanks is HUGE.
- Offer support for those students who need support. We love our students and our goal is for them to get what they NEED as soon as possible.
- Grace. Show grace and respect. Don’t make issues out of the little things. Teachers mess up. It happens. We learn and do better. Sometimes we have to go to the bathroom. Sometimes we need to miss a meeting. And we get sick!
- Value a teacher’s time. Don’t leave them waiting and hanging. Treat their time as important and significant.
- Build up teams to work together and share the load. It is amazing how much teachers can support each other when given the proper leadership. (This also means teachers can not support each other. Let’s be the teachers who support each other.)
(I would like to note that I am in no way venting over my administration at my school. I happen to have outstanding leadership at our school and I actually pulled from their strength to make the list of things that help teachers. BUT… I hear consistent issues from teachers all around the country and this is what inspired me to write this. We all need to be heard and listened to so that we can do our job!)