Recently a former colleague of mine passed away. We were both on the faculty at an urban middle/high school in Philadelphia and her passing made me think about the feelings that I had when she transferred to another Philly high school. I believed, at that time, that a teacher should have a clear and strong allegiance to the students and the faculty at the school where he/she was teaching.
This reflection comes at an interesting time at the end of the school year. Many teachers will not be returning to their old school and it took me a number of years to realize how complex this decision is for classroom teachers.
I was really upset with my former colleague when she transferred to the other school. I did not talk to her for a long time after she left because I was hurt that she, or so I thought at that time, did not consider the students and staff that she was leaving behind. Just after her departure there was another trusted colleague who left and my response was the same – anger and a refusal to even communicate with that person. Over the course of many teaching years this immature and ill formed belief is one that I have abandoned, and I am thankful that I had an opportunity to apologize to both of these colleagues for my inconsiderate stance.
I realize now that there are many reasons for leaving a particular school – it can be lack of support from administration, encroachments on teacher autonomy brought about by a shift to a standardized test prep curriculum or personal/family considerations to name a few. Of course some teachers leave because urban teaching is certainly no picnic – that reason for leaving is good for the students and faculty that remain. There can be many reasons to transition to a different teaching position and I was guilty of looking at this complex issue through a very narrow and selfish lens.
I do believe that teachers who congregate together to form small learning communities with their students and each other are one of the best ways to weather the vagaries of lackluster administration and its accompanying poor leadership and the current mad rush to focusing on achieving high test scores on a standardized test.
In subsequent blog entries I intend to write about other teacher beliefs that I have either reaffirmed or abandoned such as the importance of teacher certification, teacher tenure, and the value of teacher education programs. I have also set up an email address if you would like to engage in further conversation or let me know where you think I am in error in my positions. The address is:
I look forward to engaging with any of you that choose to respond.