I'll admit I'm crazy jealous. Jealous of everyone who was able to get the time and funds to go to EduTech this week in Brisvegas. Following amazingly inspirational techie teachers on Twitter has made it even worse as I get to see and hear exactly what I've missed. This has ensured a (short-lived) self-imposed twitter-ban which in hindsight has been a blessing as it is report season!
But I couldn't totally help myself, I wanted to know what sorts of things Sir Ken Robinson, Sugata Mitra and Dan Haesler had to say! So I took a look, read a lot and of all the little tips, tricks and common sense revelations I made, one point stood out for me and has had me pondering it all week...
We are the rockstars.
We, teachers, are the real rockstars.
Think about this; we are at education's coalface, we are the ones engaging with real kids, those younger humans who get to spend lesson time with us. Not the principals, not the educational speakers, not the ex-academics trying to sell us books and philosophies, not the university professors and certainly not the politicians and education ministers. It's us.
We are the true rockstars in this game. We are the ones who seek out those meaningful learning experiences, we know what's working and WE KNOW WHAT'S NOT. We know the joy of that face when an "a-ha!" moment has occurred, we know those frowns of concentration, we know those moments of growth when a kid realises that they have power over their situation and can navigate themselves. We know that NAPLAN doesn't measure people's true abilities and we also know that the politicians don't enact policies that would support what is really best for kids. Teachers know this. We have this knowledge in spades.
I look at leaders in our education systems often. I've worked for and with many different types of people and observed many leadership styles since I began teaching in 2003. From my vantage point, on paper, if you had to write a job description for what school leaders do and are expected to do, you'd easily end up with a job that 3 people could perform. That is, being a leader is arguably a 3.0 position fufilled by 1 person getting paid for a 1.0 position. Being driven and ambitious they strive to do the work of three people. Could you do the same? Would you?
Let's consider teachers. The work I do with my kids is exactly that; it's with my kids. That means I am not checking emails, I'm not writing programmes, I'm not liaising with parents, I'm not preparing resources or lessons, I'm not dealing with extra-curricular areas of responsibility, I'm not writing reports, I'm not assisting other teachers, I'm not at compulsory professional development sessions, I'm not organising school events/incursions/excursions, I'm not discussing the kids with relevant special needs agencies, I'm not marking their work, I'm not purchasing classroom resources and I'm not participating in school committees. I'm with my kids. The kids are full time and so is teaching. But to be a functional, let alone effective or fabulous teacher, well, that's another full time job on top. Because I do all those things too. Just in my own time. All great teachers do.
Now, don't read this and surmise that this is a complaint. Far from it. I am celebrating the massive task that we attempt and we damn well achieve, every day, every week, every term and we do it year after year. We are rockstars.
A few weeks ago, I overheard a colleague lamenting that the Easter public holidays were in the middle of our two week school break and that this was terrible. I couldn't help but reply that if they'd said that to an employed person in any other industry who receives the standard four-weeks annual leave per annum, you're likely to get a less than friendly elbow to the face. Teacher holidays are good. Actually they're tremendous, and if you're jealous or angry about that, by all means, go to uni, get your education degree and come and be one of us. You'll appreciate them then, I promise.
Being a rockstar teacher is taxing, much the same way rockstars can burn out, so can we. The fact that we don't, that we actually get better at our jobs, become more engaged with our kids and are asked to do more and more and more, communicates that we are incredibly valuable to our schools, our students and without wanting to sound too sickly patriotic, we are important to Australia.
For me this week, I'm owning my rockstar status. I'm strutting around knowing that I do a brilliant job and that I work with people who are of equal rockstar status (although we each have our own genres!). Those kids I get to teach, my fans, are why I do this. They are my motivation.
I just have to make sure the education 'machine' doesn't get in our way.