In lieu of all of the wonderful comments on my recent #edchat post, I felt the need to vent some frustrations about the initiative I started with some colleagues a few months back that I blogged about here.

Long story short, I started a Google Group around a school-wide initiative aimed at improving the climate at my school.  It started with about 10-15 members that immediately dwindled down to about 5, which is now close to a measly 4.  Despite the group messages I send out asking for help or asking for input, I am always met with responses from the same 3-4 people.

I held a meeting today. I announced the meeting last Friday, it was in our “Daily Gram” posted at the front counter. I was out sick for two days and came in JUST to be at this meeting.

2 people came.

We were supposed to be hashing out a schedule to bring the School Store (part of the incentive program) around to the classrooms since our previous schedule had been turned on its head by newly mandated blocks of scripted teaching and a change in the grade group meeting times.

Instead, I found myself frustrated and hopeless. I was close to giving up completely.  “We can’t do this alone! People want these things to happen, but they don’t want to help!”

I thought about some of the comments (including my own reflections) on my #edchat post. Many people expressed how refreshing it was to hold meaningful conversation about relevant topics or how comforting it was to hear that others were also experiencing what they were living in their classrooms from day to day.

#edchat has become a community. A virtual community many of whose members have never met face to face.

This is what is missing in my building. Conversation, connections, community. The 3 or 4 colleagues who have helped make this initiative happen are like my #edchat community. They enjoy collaboration and sharing of ideas, they are open to new things and seem to thrive on it just like I do.  But 4 people out of 45 is not a functional community.

I started realizing that being a principal could be a really hard job. How do you unite your staff and motivate them to take on leadership roles if they are not intrinsically motivated to do so?

It also made me realize how important it is for a school to be able to choose its staff members. Teachers need to work as a team. They need to come to a school prepared for a give and take process.  This means discussion, time and collaboration together. They need to come to school with a common vision, purpose and dedication to a set of ideals.

My #edchat community incarnate.

I’m at a point where I don’t have the patience for apathy anymore. Now that I’ve come across so many passionate people with so much energy to collaborate, reflect and discuss it’s hard for me to tolerate anything else.  The teachers will call me in my room: “When is the store coming? It didn’t come to me today.” But when I ask for volunteers or ideas or feedback, I’m met with silence.

I was close to saying “Let’s just close the store.” Well, actually, I did say it. My colleagues reminded me that the initiative was for the kids, despite the fact that the adults were letting them down.  We as a committee had made a commitment to the kids, and it was important that we didn’t let them down.

We finally decided to create a sign out sheet for the teachers so they could sign out the cart of goodies when it was a good time for them.  We as a committee will be  responsible for stocking the store, keeping it neat and making it available.  We have shifted the responsibility from us to the teachers in hopes that they will take more ownership of the initiative (and in hopes that their students will pressure them to bring the store around!).

I would hate to see this initiative fail, as we put so much time and effort into it and it was successful for a few months.

Now I am faced with the fact that I’m frustrated with my own colleagues and feel unsupported.  What do we do when we feel this way in our own building? (Aside from running to Twitter every Tuesday night at 7pm?)  Does this mean it’s really time for me to move on, to find a new community that is more connected and willing to take risks?  What do I do if such an opportunity doesn’t arise?

8 Comments

  1. Reply

    You are preaching to the choir. Our teachers have tried to start several initiatives (new schedule, green team, positive behavior supports, you name it) and it ALWAYS ends up being the same 5 of us out of 80 teachers. My husband often says I should find a new school – but I like my school! I like the teachers, I like the students, I like what our potential is! I just can't figure out a way to get the teachers out of their rut of focusing only on their classrooms instead of the school as a whole.
    In our school, it all comes down to time. That is always the excuse. Perhaps we all need more time management strategies to help us realize that we can help. That it won't take that much of our time to help out an initiative that makes the community stronger.
    Oh, and if you figure out where that school is that is made up of the #edchat community – sign me up!

  2. Reply

    Hmm, millions of people, hundred thousands of students, thousands of teachers, hundreds of conservatives, tens of 'willing to take a risk if someone leads us' people, and only a few real innovators…and these few seem to meet on #edchat and Twitter…
    Keep up the efforts. If Alexander Bell gave up we would not be able to connect via Twitter! 🙂

  3. bhsprincipal

    Reply

    Something tells me you will have some options if you choose to move on. I think I remember Chris Lehmann saying to someone at Educon "Don't be a martyr."

    Personally, I hated feeling like a quitter myself in changing school a few years backs, but I have done it and I have been refreshed upon joining a community of educators who are much more constructive in actively supporting the best interests of students.

  4. Mary Beth Hertz

    Reply

    I will definitely sign you up! Perhaps we also need for planning time and collaboration time built in to allow us make our school what we want it to be. I also think it is, as you began to explain, hard for teachers to understand sometimes that they can have a direct impact on their school, not just their classroom.

  5. Mary Beth Hertz

    Reply

    Very true. There wouldn't be 'innovators' if everyone was one, I suppose! Thanks.

  6. Reply

    It is a feeling of being a 'quitter' isn't it? I also don't want to leave 'my kids' in someone else's hands. I think Chris' advice is good advice, and some I should remember!

  7. Reply

    There are two kinds of teachers as there are two types of people … those that simply walk through life uninspired and by-the-numbers and then those like you, constantly energized and wanting to do their best at all times. I'm sure some of your colleagues started out like the latter, but they let circumstances wear down their resolve. The moment that does, a person needs to find another job, rather than continue to collect a paycheck and accepting their own subpar performance as the norm. You know there are plenty of teachers like that. They are the ones who should be drummed out of the system, but you know they won't be, because the school district fears lawsuits. I commend you for your ability to hang in there and not let others get you down. Don't let their negativity affect you too much and don't internalize problems or take them home with you. If you do, you won't last, believe me.

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