Tuesday, November 3, 2009

With Friends Like These...

What is with teachers turning on each other?

I was having a chat with a coach at my school the other day, a lovely woman who has taught me almost everything worth knowing about teaching middle school ELA. With all the changes afoot at my school, my department has tried to band together to adapt to the changes the best way we can and support each other in keeping as much of our good work intact as we can. Our coach complimented us on sticking together, lamenting the fact that so many teachers in other grades and departments are selling each other out. One teacher will blame another for not sharing a piece of information. One teacher will rat out another who's not with some particular part of the program. And, in a particularly insidious twist on the old "toss under the bus," teachers are, in the presences of coaches and admins, bragging about how they've done or mastered something that their colleague hasn't.

If you're familiar with the NYC teacher blogosphere, you know about the Ariel Sacks and Matt Polazzo debacles. While I certainly respect Sacks' and Polazzo's rights to express their opinions, I can't say I much care for the way they tore down their colleagues in doing it. I'm not sure I'd want to be one of their colleagues, lest any fear or weakness I confess be fed back to a boss. Most of all, I rarely trust anyone that displays that degree of, well, smugness. If a few years of teaching has taught me anything, it's that fads in education come and go, and you can be on the right side of things one year and the wrong side the next.

There's a way to share what's working, yes. There's a way to celebrate our successes, to show our colleagues what we've done that might be helpful for them. But we shouldn't do it to make ourselves look better to a boss or to save our own skins--we should do it because helping each other is the right thing to do, and because if we all help each other, we'll all pull through.