Now that I’ve posted the top ten things administration should know about gifted teachers, I thought I would write about my personal experience with a few of them. I went to bed thinking about #1 and when I got up this morning my good friend, Nancy (an ESL teacher), had written a paragraph that nails the concept totally. She writes:
But when someone tells us that we have to make them succeed, it changes the whole feel in the classroom. As a teacher I am no longer responsible for my students but rather for their success. And not the student’s idea of success or even mine but someone else’s. And we are accountable not to the student or to ourselves for that student’s success but to that “someone else”.
My experience as a gifted teacher in the public school setting and then in the private school setting were vastly different. In the public school setting, I was not expected to get my students out to every type of competition but I did encourage them as much as possible. I would have even joined them on a Saturday to be their cheering section. Because of the personalities of my own two gifted children, I understood that some gifted students thrived on competition, others do not.
My position at the private school was another matter entirely. I was expected to attend training (on a Saturday), redesign my instructional time to prepare the students, and give up my weekends for competition. All students were expected to compete, even to the point of being lectured if they did not make it to the competition. I was expected to get my students to enter any and all writing competitions that passed over my desk (whether they were ready or not) and the writing skills of this particular crowd was very stilted, uncreative, and underdeveloped for most of the school year.
I understand that private schools need to get their name ‘out there’ to obtain more students, it is how the administration goes about setting expectations that ruins the experience for all concerned. This is where Nancy nails it! Once I am held accountable to that ‘someone else’, I’ve lost all buy in, I’ve lost the true purpose of being a teacher and encourager.
A truly good administrator knows which teachers on his/her staff is out there doing their job because they love it. They will somehow compensate those teachers who work above and beyond their usual eight hours. These administrators focus on how the student has benefited from participating in these competitions – not on how their participation has benefited the the organization!
I have high respect for my predecessors in my field. They were teaching during a time when accountability and testing was not reigning king over the profession. My children benefited from their passion and experience. They are my role models and I tried to emulate them as I taught. I was discouraged to discover that my last position did not value my passion but took my passion for granted.