Last week, a rare amazing even occurred. One of my colleagues offered to cover two of my blocks as I prepared for a teacher evaluation. The generous offer was a real shocker but the attitude in which he gave the offer was even more remarkable. As I accepted his offer to cover one of my blocks, he said, “Jordan, I’m here to help and support not judge.”
This year is my first year in the Surrey District. I transferred over from an independent school in the fall and because it was my first year in the district, I received a first year evaluation.
My evaluation consisted of three lesson observations and one session where the principal inspects my planning, assessment records and systems of communication with parents.
Over the last few weeks, I’ve been working hard to come up with unit overviews for the last inspection of my planning. Because I was teaching these units for the first time, I had put most of my energy into the daily plans for each unit and not enough time sketching out the unit overviews.
Last week, I was feeling “the crunch” as the last inspection grew nearer. That’s when one of the teachers in my department overheard my nervous ramblings about the evaluation session and offered to cover one of my blocks.
The humble way that he did it took me off guard, in a good way—probably because I too often put myself in competition with others instead of supporting them in a non-judgemental way.
A School Culture of One-Upmanship
This got me thinking about the way I hold my pedagogical knowledge and what I use it for. Like other forms of knowledge, it can be used to help and support others in a way that really encourages the common good of the school or it can be used to puff up our egos.
Swollen egos cause arrogance and break down the unity of the staff by creating little pockets of competition. One teacher competes against another to show off the latest pedagogical fashions. Department begin attempting to out-shine each other. One-up-manship becomes central to the culture and petty divisions break up the school. Less is accomplished and teachers begin to feel more and more isolated.
A Story of Humble Pedagogy
The opposite is true of teachers who are humble, instructional leaders who genuinely want to help others get better.
I experienced this kind of support in my first year of teaching. I took a job teaching a Grade One class but lacked experience in the world of literacy. Fortunately, there was an amazing literacy expert whose son was in my class. Her name was Annette Trent.
Once I got over the fear of having her judge my rookie efforts, I asked her to help out with my guided reading stations. After that, she volunteered to organize my classroom library. Next, she introduced me to levelled readers, multiple literacy strategies, hands-on problem solving activities in math. Every day she was in my class, she offered words of encouragement and, even though it must have been extremely difficult, never made a critical comment about my teaching.
Another thing that made Annette a remarkable support in the classroom was her attentiveness and response to my needs. As she earned my trust, I was able to open up and ask for more help and guidance. Her suggestions were never assumed problems. They were real problems that I asked her questions about.
Great supporters like Annette lead by example. They don’t assume the location and nature of the needs. Instead, they humbly help you assess your needs and are equipped with the tools and strategies to move you forward.