The Complexities of Responsibility - The Jose Vilson

The Complexities of Responsibility

by Jose Vilson on September 4, 2008

in Jose

I’ve found a bit of a paradox.

I bring this up because of the conversations I’ve been having with respected and degreed educators in my sphere, one whose very close to me personally and one whose cool with me professionally. Both have different schools and different situations, but both have the students in their schools in mind.

On one end of the argument, we have a large conclave of teachers who complain at every turn possible. Simple matters become grandiose events. We can have a professional development period, and once those kinda discussions happen, everyone has that looks-at-their-watch-when-is-this-over-not-just-yet-aw-man look on them. I’m all for rebel rousing and upsetting the established order, but there are also times when this sort of activity just isn’t necessary nor valuable to our primary objective: helping students. For example, someone who’s taught the same student for 5 straight years because that student can’t pass his class should take an earnest look at his or her class and how they’re addressing that child’s needs. Teachers who would rather read the newspaper in homeroom than take care of students and simultaneously complain about their students’ lack of effort boggle my mind.

But then there’s the flip side of that argument when we talk about responsibility. Teachers don’t always get treated like professionals, and the expectations for them shift depending on whoever’s in charge. Some of the bitter history between administration and teacher is hard to erase, and so is the whimsical flux often frustrated teachers. I’ve stated time and again how the profession of teaching takes time, and just from general conversations with teachers, I get the feeling that what’s “important” is usually just a facade to appease rather than actually researching and figuring out what’s best for the students.

So I’m at a weird spot right now. Any thoughts on this?

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Tracy Rosen September 4, 2008 at 9:45 pm

quicky first response with a quote. I have no idea who said it.

“If you’ve taught him/her how a million times and s/he still doesn’t get it – who’s the slow learner?”

I’ll try to get back at this sometime this weekend, once I’ve gotten my feet back on the ground after this first week as both a teacher and a student. I’ve got a thing or two to say…believe it or not ;)

Tracy Rosens last blog post..First day … on your marks, get set…

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Norm September 4, 2008 at 10:46 pm

The attitdutes of colleagues who seem not to care can be infuriating. But name a job in any large institution where this doesn’t occur? I don’t think this will ever change without givign more controls to teachers over the schools and making people feel responsibility to each other.

There have probably been stories about these teachers since the cavemen. I remember a bunch. There are lots of excuses for people to become cynics, especially in difficult schools with lousy administrations. People like Klein and McCain – who as I write this is bashing teachers- use the points you make as a reason to remove teachers rights. But we all know the ones who go will not necessarily be the ones who don’t care as long as they play the game.

Norms last blog post..BloomKlein Model in the Land of Oz

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Frumteacher September 5, 2008 at 5:09 am

I’ve been thinking about this for some days now, so I decided to respond to your post with a post on my blog: http://frumteacher.blogspot.com/2008/09/somethings-wrong.html

Frumteachers last blog post..Something’s wrong

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Hugh O'Donnell September 5, 2008 at 12:44 pm

We can characterize groups, but it all boils down, in my mind anyway, to the characteristics of individuals in the group. Some lead, some follow, some just get in the way. I don’t think it will ever be different, but good leadership, at any level, mitigates the dissonance.

Voters elect school board members who hire superintendents who appoint personnel directors who hire principals who hire teachers who teach students. That’s a big chain with lots of weak links (especially in NYC — huge district).

We just hafta keep keeping on, Jose. Keep setting the good example and doing the excellent job. (Some of the best administrators I know were motivated to move into management because they knew they could do a better job than 80% of the “leaders” they have worked with.)

You’ve got to love it. You do. I do. Here we are.

Hugh O’Donnells last blog post..The Pace of Change

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Miss Profe September 7, 2008 at 12:19 am

Jose, I believe that very few teachers are actually capable of the sort of deep thinking you are suggesting. For one, it isn’t a part of the training of most teachers, and for two, the time isn’t allowed by many schools and school admins.

Miss Profes last blog post..I Survived…

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Rickismom September 7, 2008 at 3:30 am
pissedoffteacher September 7, 2008 at 10:33 am

I don’t think the problem necessarily is with teachers. I believe it is with the type of staff development we are offered–at least in my school.

Staff development in my school means being talked at and talked down to. The only teachers they want to participate are the ones that agree with them. Principal Suit has told me not to talk at those meetings. Often the people that run them are ill prepared. The rooms are hot. The seats are uncomfortable. I could go on and on, but why bother. You get the idea.

On the other hand, College Board runs great staff development programs for AP teachers. I have gone to many of them, on my own time and at my own expense. I have been treated like a professional and have come away with valuable information and skills that enhance my teaching. I think very few teachers would object to that type of PD.

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Francis L. Holland September 7, 2008 at 4:56 pm

Thanks for caring about and teaching young people. It’s not helpful when people complain about how things are while simultaneously doubting that anything useful can be done to change them. That standpoint just discourages and paralyzes people. And then the paralysis itself becomes part of the problem that needs to be addressed.

Sometimes, I think we do need to confront each other and say, “Aside from complaining, what are you willing and determined to DO to make things better?” If people are willing to do anything about the problems they identify, then they might not be the best people to listen to when time is scarce.

Meanwhile, thanks to you and to ALL of the blogs that are participating in the “I Am A Community Organizer” day of blogging for justice on Monday, September 8, 2008! (Over at Electronic Village, I heard you’re a participant.)

What a great logo that is that so many blogs are adopting, with a number of people with their hands raised and the caption, “I am a community organizer!” We’re going to post that logo over at the Afrosphere Action Alert blog, and I hope it encourages more AfroSpear and afrosphere bloggers to post the Afrosphere Action Alerts blog widget, so that all the crucial actions that are announced are automatically visible at blogs across the AfroSpear and afrosphere.

Francis L. Hollands last blog post..New Action Alert Widget Announces Day of Blogging in Support of Community Organizing

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