The Importance of Community, part 1

Posted: 2011/03/17 in Classroom Teacher, Education, Education Reform, High School, Students

I love my high school. I’ve had the most wonderful administrators and the most supportive colleagues.

I’ve heard other teachers talk about terrible experiences with tyrannical administrators and with difficult colleagues. I usually keep my mouth shut because I don’t want to sound like I’m boasting.

The first year I taught at my school was with a principal who was a nice enough guy. He hid in his office and never confronted anyone about anything. And the school was stagnating. But he was a really nice guy.

Year two the nice guy got replaced with a dynamic ambitious woman — and it was great. Mrs. C was determined to improve our school. Her door was always open even though she was everywhere in the building at once. Teachers who wanted to put in extra effort and do something more knew they’d be supported and appreciated by Mrs. C. We also knew this woman would stand up for us at the district level. She was not only our leader, she was our champion.

More than that Mrs. C was willing to put in the effort to get rid of poor teachers; keeping track of complaints till the teacher in question could be encouraged to “take early retirement” (no matter how far they were from retirement age).

That’s when our positive sense of community really started.

At one point there was a threat of a teachers’ strike. At the top academic school in our district the principal called a faculty meeting and collected keys from all teachers. Administrators would unlock their doors. Teachers couldn’t be trusted with keys.

On the same day we had a faculty meeting. Mrs. C told us she was proud of the professionalism we had shown in the face of a difficult situation. She told us that, whatever happened, she hoped it would not rend the fabric of our supportive community. Then she offered the services of the schools’ Wellness Center to teachers who felt stressed or upset. We kept our room keys.

Two notes to Michelle Rhee:

  • This was a principal who could’ve asked me to walk through fire (and I’m pretty darn scared of fire).
  • When teachers feel happy going to work there’s a more positive environment for learning.
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