One of the things that I really enjoy about teaching is the opportunity to work with young people, specifically the 17 and 18 year old students. These individuals are on the cusp of graduation; mastering the art of inadvertently or purposely displaying their potential but not yet understanding how to turn that potential into power. So I enjoy working with them because it is my opportunity to help them assess themselves and reassess the world that they live in. One of the other aspects of teaching that I wasn’t aware that I wouldn’t enjoy as much as I do is working with teachers. I had no clue, but working with teachers brings me so much joy. In a classroom with kids, I am able to impact possibly up to 20 to 25 kids, but when I am able to instruct and teach a room of 20 to 25 teachers, each teacher represents a classroom with 20 to 25 kids… you do the math. The impact that I can have is even greater. So whenever I get an opportunity to lead training sessions for the professional development of our teachers, I jump at it.
Jesus was an awesome teacher. He taught people by telling stories; parables they are called. There is one story that Jesus tells a crowd where a farmer started to spread seeds on the ground. Some of those seeds fell by the wayside and the birds swooped down and ate them; they never got a chance to grow. Some of those seeds fell on rocks and cracks in the ground and quickly sprang up but they never took root and they just as quickly died from the heat of the sun. Some of those seeds fell amongst the weeds and as they grew, they were choked by the weeds. Then, there were the seeds that fell on “good ground,” and they grew and produced much fruit. That is just like teaching… the seeds we spread fall everywhere; some grow, some grow distorted, twisted and other seeds are stolen so they never get the chance to grow. The same is true with adults as with children.
Moment of the Week
Whenever I work with our high school and middle school teachers, I feel good levels of receptivity among them. I cannot say the same from the elementary teachers within our district. Regarding the reasons why, I’ll digress for a moment. My purpose for presenting was to provide strategies for the next year with respect to teaching and instruction. I also gave some information regarding some of the characteristics of our students. I received some blank stares, some leery eyes and some outright faces and bodies that spoke, “this guy again? Really, how is this gonna do any good; really smart to give strategies at the END of the year.” But despite the faces and body signals, any good teacher teaches on and so I taught on. At the end of my session, we had an activity that the teachers seemed to enjoy – it was an assessment activity that involved karaoke, and I got a complaint or two about how I administered it; mind you I created the activity. At the end of the day, my presentation went well. But the observations that surrounding my execution of my session and the perception others have of me and how those perceptions and assumptions dictate how others interact with me both formally and informally always catch my attention.
Lesson of the Week
Let me say that I do receive support and encouragement from a number of the teachers in our district and I certainly appreciate it. But whenever there are lovers, there are haters and not bragging, but I am sure that I have some haters. The reasons why the receptivity isn’t as strong with some of the elementary teachers, or with some of our middle and high school teachers, when it comes to my presentations has to do with a number of things, in my humble opinion.
First, our school does a half-ass job when it comes to teacher professional development; second, every conversation I have regarding teaching and instruction revolves around the core of my belief in the concept of the cultural competence and responsiveness of teachers and there are those who may not necessarily want to hear it, let alone believe in it; and third, who I am quite honestly may turn some teachers off. I am a young teacher finishing his 3rd year, who happens to be a Black man, perceived to be “connected” within our organization and thus in the position to “lead.” That doesn’t bother me more than it astounds me that teachers are able to detect BS from those who mean them harm but they cannot recognize their own self-imposed biases and grievances to the point where they themselves are not teachable or reachable for those who mean them well. Considering the fact that these very teachers will quickly point out the students who are “unreachable” and cannot be taught for various reasons, they show themselves not teachable or reachable for the same reasons they cite in their students; this absolutely astounds me.
But I am reminded that just like in the classroom that I am to continue to teach regardless of the “temperature” of the room. Just like in the parable of the sower, the seeds that I spread may be taken, scorched or even choked… but some of those seeds will fall on good ground and produce fruit. So I take heart that just like in the classroom, with those teachers, there is at least someone who will take the seeds and produce fruit in their classrooms.
Keep spreading your seeds; they will find good ground.