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School bus (noun) – (1) A bus that transports students from home to school, school to home, or school-sponsored events; (2) a typically yellow-colored vehicle designed to deliver students on their school-related travels; (3) a place under which teachers can throw one another.

I’m often amazed at how often teachers commit to definition 3. Why? Many fantastic teachers excel at building self-esteem in students, making positive impacts in the community, and standing behind a quality administrator and their vision.

[bctt tweet=”Yet instead of building up the perceived lackluster and/or lightning rod teacher across the hallway, we instead throw our colleague under the bus.”]

That’s not to say all or even a majority of teachers so willingly backstab one another. However, in a profession that teaches students how to think, learn, and interact with one another, one teacher who commits such blatant disregard for others in their profession is one too many.

 Maybe this is a recent phenomenon for education. [bctt tweet=”The anti-teacher sentiment has grown by leaps and bounds over the past decade.”] With budget cuts and the loss of teaching jobs – an estimated 350,000 over the last 4 years (20,000 of them in my home state of Pennsylvania), teachers have felt like they are being pitted against one another for jobs. Those remaining jobs go through a tumultuous and turbulent trial of seniority, performance, or politics.

[bctt tweet=”With the growing emphasis of testing and now some teacher evaluations being put in place across the states, that Teacher vs. Teacher mentality is growing.”]

 And maybe this sentiment is not recent. As a 7th year teacher, I’m not privy to the history of the feelings festering in the faculty room. Still, more experienced colleagues have said that though this type of teacher-bashing has always existed, it has steadily increased.

Maybe the disregard isn’t solely in education, either. Americans, as a whole, have been fiercely independent and dog-eat-dog throughout our history. Most recently, economic recession (or depression?) has caused many firms and their employees to behave in a similar combative manner. Americans have always been filled with fights, but, more recently, American workers are often looking to downplay the contributions of any member of our society, from our dinner server to our Senator in Washington D.C.

I’ve found that this doesn’t just occur generically, either. There has been a situation or two where I’ve asked myself about my own professional priorities. My behavior has, in hindsight, been somewhat deplorable and embarrassing. I slowly became self-aware about how I was quick to both judge and dismiss other teachers’ problems and plights instead of jumping in and offering my help. I was disappointed in myself at how my actions towards my colleagues were the complete antithesis to my actions towards the students that I care about.

[bctt tweet=”With them in mind, it mathematically makes sense to help our colleagues so they can help other students. “]

The average elementary teacher will impact approximately 25 students for 35 years, which amounts to nearly 1,000 students’ worth of influence in a lifetime. The average secondary teacher will impact nearly 5,000 students in a lifetime. If each of those incredible teachers helps a colleague or two similarly, teachers will double – if not triple – the impact and imprint of our dutiful lesson plans, leadership, and lifelong learning.

There are many problems in education – many of which we cannot fix. However, a careful poll of 20% of my union colleagues revealed the greatest issues that we face include decreasing morale and a lack of recognition. This is one thing that a tectonic shift in teachers’ attitudes can revolutionize.

So the next time that school bus parks in front of your classroom window, look out and think about how you define its purpose. Do you look at the bus and think about how you can chuck the colleague across the hall with who you share constant conflict? Or, instead, do you see it as a vehicle of learning?

Mr. Jake Miller is the 2016 National History Day Pennsylvania Teacher of the Year, a 2017 NEA Global...

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