As a school year is winding down, I have been reflecting back on the school year, and thinking about moving forward next year. The idea of “School teacher vs. Classroom teacher” keeps coming up in my head, as we continuously strive for organizational success.
My belief is that a “classroom teacher” is one that is focused solely on their position and subject matter, and the rest of the school is something that is just “happening” around them. A “school teacher” is one that is focused on the success of the school as a whole. They know that every child within the school is the responsibility of all staff, not just the ones that teach them directly. What they do within their classroom one year, will directly affect what happens to that child later on in school, and in reality, can impact them for life. School teachers are the ones that see kids outside of their classroom and deal with them in good times and bad. They never see a student doing something wrong and simply march them down to the principal’s office. They see, even in mistakes, that an opportunity to talk with a child is an opportunity to build a relationship.
Peter Senge discusses what happens when people are focused solely on their own job as opposed to the work of the organization:
“When people in organizations focus only on their position, they have little sense of responsibility for the results produced when all positions interact. Moreover, when results are disappointing, it can be very difficult to know why. All you can do is assume that “someone screwed up.” Peter Senge, The Fifth Discipline
With all of the discussion about progress in education, and making a difference, it is when educators align within schools and systems to do great things together which will create real growth. It is when a school is full of “school teachers”, that we will truly see a huge impact and shift in the learning of our students. We have to move away from the “pockets of excellence” in individual classrooms, and work towards a shared vision in schools. Teachers absolutely need autonomy in their instruction, but autonomy can still align with the goals of a school. Programs like “Google Days” allow this same autonomy to the staff, yet always seem to tie to the shared vision of the organization.
It is sad to see that there are so many strong initiatives happening in schools that kids only get for a year and may never see again. In school, we have to work together, share best practices, align our vision, give opportunities to our teachers to do great things, and make great schools, not just great classrooms. The “pockets” are not enough.