For the Teachers Who Don't Support Other Teachers

About Franchesca Warren

For fifteen years Franchesca taught English/Language Arts in two urban districts in Atlanta, Georgia, and Memphis, Tennessee. Increasingly frustrated with decisions being made about public education from people who were not in the classroom, in 2012 she decided to start a blog about what it was really like to teach in public schools. In the last four years, The Educator's Room has grown to become the premiere source for resources, tools, and strategies for all things teaching and learning. To learn more about Franchesca Warren's work, please visit www.franchescalanewarren.com.

Every week in my inbox, I receive emails from teachers who are teetering on the edge of total breakdowns. Sometimes they’re stressed about their evaluations while other times they are stressed about the ever increasing workload being put on them, but more times than not, they’re in virtual tears because they cannot feed their families. Sometimes it’s because they haven’t had a raise in ten years while other times they’re a single parent just trying to make “ends” meet.

Today  I received the following email,

“Hello TER! Quick question. I hear you guys always talking about teacher branding and expertise, but until this year I haven’t seen WHY I needed these things. However last week my husband got hurt on the job and we’re down to one income with four kids. To make matters worse, my oldest son starts college in two years and we have nothing saved. I only make $45,000 a year (I’m a ten year veteran) how do I start?!?!?!?!”

How do you even respond to this? How does the most noble profession in the world, continue to pay their teachers a salary that could barely support a family of two, let alone a family of four? (According to the NEA, in 2012-2013 the starting salary of teachers is $36,151.)  Of course, I gave her some suggestions (start using Teachers Pay Teachers, use her teacher expertise to write a book, consider starting a side business based on her successes in the classroom, etc.)  and even solicited feedback from our audience on social media, but each time I do this I always get one the same response(s)  from fellow teachers:

“I’m sick of talking about teacher branding and/or expertise. I just want to teach.”

“This sounds like someone looking to leave the classroom. I have too much stuff to worry about than to do this.”

Each and every time I see this I cringe on the inside, not because I can’t take criticism, but because of the lack of support we show to our fellow teachers- especially teachers who want to think “outside of the box” the public put us in. This type of pessimism toward teaching isn’t healthy for teachers and it’s the same behavior that allowed people with no experience in education to come in and make policies that has made teaching more difficult.

It also makes us ask the questions:

Why is it so hard for fellow teachers to support one another? Why is our first response negativity instead of unabated joy for our colleagues?

How many times has a child in your class found a way to make them understand how to solve a problem? What would happen if another student (upon hearing their strategy) rolled their eyes and shot down what this child had worked on to think about? I don’t know about you, but I would have pulled the negative student in the hallway and given him or her a nice little “talk”. So, if we can correct this behavior with students, why is it so hard for us to do the same with our fellow teachers?

The truth is that many times our day is full of negativity  (whether it’s from a hostile parent to demoralizing email being sent from our administrators) and so we’re jaded when someone presents something that makes us feel uncomfortable. I can remember the first time (early in my career) that I found out a math colleague was presenting at a national conference. I immediately thought, “Why would he do that? Doesn’t he know who goes to those things?”

Looking back, I didn’t understand that for this teacher  presenting at his national conference allowed him to feel good about his work despite the struggles he was having. I should have “clapped” a bit harder when he came to me to talk about all of the ideas he had for the presentation. A few years later after I went through a reduction in force, I can remember going to my colleagues in the building about starting a blog about teaching and almost all of them looked at me like I was crazy. The feeling I defeat that I felt before I had even written one post was almost insurmountable. However, it was my Special Education Co-Teacher who told me to do it and reminded me that I had nothing to lose.

Contrary to people’s beliefs, it’s fine for teachers to have dreams and aspirations about teaching.  Our dreams and aspirations are what keeps us going day to day in our classrooms on days when everything (lesson planning, grading, IEPS, etc.) is too much. Sometimes those dreams and aspirations are as simple as wanting to be a Department Chairperson while other times it’s about writing a book about what you know you’re good with in your classroom. Whatever it is keep dreaming, keep going.

Our dreams and aspirations keep us going day to day in the classroom. Click To Tweet

Before I was an Instructional Coach and I was working in a large, urban school it literally BURNED me up to see big companies like Pearson, Scholastic, etc. make enormous amount of money for programs that did not address the needs of the students that I taught. I remember having to sit in professional learning with their consultants trying to tell us how to get our students to write and thinking to myself, “these people have no clue what it’s like to teach in inner city Memphis.” However, I’d play the game and clap and “ooh and ahh” when their miraculous product was shown to use and when they’d leave it would go on my shelf NEVER to be used again.

So each time one of my co-workers created something that helped our students I supported it wholeheartedly. I encouraged them to sell their products on sites like Teachers Pay Teachers, start blogs, write books, and anything else that could funnel some money (and respect) back to their well deserving pockets.In a nutshell, I respected them as professionals much more than any “consultant” from a company who had likely never set foot in a school like mine to teach.

Most times my support wasn’t even financial,  it was emotional. Like the time when my grade level colleague told me she had written an entire curriculum around questioning in math. Instead of balking at her news,  I showed her how to set up her store on Teachers Pay Teachers and listened as she talked about her passion. She later told me that my time and encouragement  helped give her the confidence to know that her work was valuable to  fellow teachers.

Just like I did with her, I encourage every teacher who writes for this site to “tap into” their teacher expertise and cultivate their brand. Why? Because their knowledge of not only teaching and learning, but kids shouldn’t begin and end with their classroom.

-I encourage them to start to think about what they can create to help compensate for their dismal salaries.

-I encourage them to write about the good, bad and ugly that happens in their classroom.

-I encourage them to “think outside of the box” to keep their love for teaching going.

-I encourage them to stay in the classroom and cultivate their expertise.

In the four years since I started this blog, our teachers/writers have done some pretty awesome things that makes me smile when I’m having a bad day:

-We have one teacher who has continued to manage her own school grades K-5 in a state where education (and teachers) are not valued.

-We have another teacher who decided to start a school for special need students after leaving the public school classroom to have her child.

-Four of our teachers have written books on their experiences in the classroom.

-Five of our teachers have used their classroom knowledge to have an article written here be republished in The Washington Post.

-Based on her article on teacher activism, one of our teachers was interviewed by her local news station about what teachers need in light of bad educational policies in her state.

-One of our teachers piloted 1:1 classrooms at her schools.

-We have two teachers who have recently accepted teaching positions overseas.

-One of our teachers decided to leave a school where she was not valued to go to a district that she feels like an integral part of a team.

-Over half of our teachers have presented at national conventions like NCTE, NCTM, NCSS, etc.

-One of our teachers leads his area representation for NEA about issues he sees both in (and outside) the classroom.

The list could go on, but the most encouraging thing about all of us is that we not only support one another, but each one of these teachers used their expertise to make their classroom space just a little bit brighter for not only their students but for them.

In 2016, it’s becoming more and more apparent that we can not just go into our classrooms, close the door and TEACH. Teachers are leaving the profession in droves and are leaving discouraged, broke with no plans on how to support their livelihoods. Instead, we need to have a plan to not only teach, but to find a way to use our teacher expertise to not only fight for  what’s rightfully ours (better work conditions, higher pay, legislation that makes sense, etc.) and to support our fellow teachers. 

So in 2016, we will continue our smoochfest about teacher branding and expertise. Not because we like to repeat ourselves, but because we really  believe that  TEACHERS ARE THE EXPERTS IN EDUCATION.  We would never ask an expert neurosurgeon to just shut the door and perform surgeries all day. We’d ask that they teach new surgeons all of the things they’ve learned. We would ask them to possibly write books, create videos all in efforts to show the medical community (and the families they serve) that they are the expert in the field. Why do we not encourage the same from our teachers? I’ve worked with teachers who are just as effective in the classroom and I want them to understand it’s okay to show people their expertise.

Why do we not encourage the same from our teachers? I’ve worked with teachers who are just as effective in the classroom and I want them to understand it’s okay to show people their expertise.

When I started this blog, I pledged that I would do my part to make sure that I not only talked about teacher expertise, but that I supported my fellow teachers. So every chance that I get I try to do the following:

Buy a resource from Teachers Pay Teachers and if I can’t use it give it to a co-worker or one of my kid’s teachers. TpT is such a valuable resource in our profession. Before I buy resources from big educational companies, I always go to TpT to see if a teacher as created something.

Buy books written by teachers for teachers and give these out to my fellow teachers as gifts. 

– Encourage rock star teachers to apply to present at national (and local) conferences. I’m tired of going to conferences and hearing consultants who zero to none teaching experience.

-Encourage teachers to start a blog about their teaching experience. I love teacher blogs. They not only give great teaching strategies, but they make me feel like I’m not alone.

While the above isn’t much, it helps me feel like I’m supporting our own. I’ll never forget the feeling I had when my former principal’s contract wasn’t renewed after 20 years with the district. It was heart-wrenching to see him pack his world in boxes and start the arduous journey of trying to find a new teaching job  knowing that it would be hard for another school to pick up because of all of his experience. I was sad that someone with so much talent could be so easily disposed of without a care of everything he had done in service to the school.

He was broken and defeated and he didn’t have to be.

So in 2016 take some time to support the teacher down the hall, across town or even across the world. We’re literally ALL we have in the world of public education.

TEACHER SUPPORT

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About the Author:

For fifteen years Franchesca taught English/Language Arts in two urban districts in Atlanta, Georgia, and Memphis, Tennessee. Increasingly frustrated with decisions being made about public education from people who were not in the classroom, in 2012 she decided to start a blog about what it was really like to teach in public schools. In the last four years, The Educator's Room has grown to become the premiere source for resources, tools, and strategies for all things teaching and learning. To learn more about Franchesca Warren's work, please visit www.franchescalanewarren.com.

One Comment

  1. Darryl Salter December 29, 2016 at 9:10 pm - Reply

    Thanks for starting this blog. I have re-posted several of your stories on my Facebook page.To go a step further, there are teachers who do hatchet jobs on other teachers here at the schools in the country where I teach. When wrong doing is perceived certain teachers are trained by admin to inform on each other. I have heard of falsely incriminating evidence being planted in teachers unlocked desks resulting in dismissal. With computers being added to our classrooms the nefariousness has moved into the digital age. Information is being stolen from teacher chat and email accounts by unethical school leaders and then used against the teacher. So I see this going on around me for 10 years at my school and I cant in good conscience work there any longer. I’m going to move into educational consulting and teacher training. Thanks for spreading the word with your great blog!

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