16. Appreciation and Expectations- My Journey Through Heartbreak #Edblogaday

A friend of mine posted the above image on Facebook last week and I set it aside, knowing that it would become a blog post.  I suppose it would have made a great Teacher Appreciation Week post, but after participating in the #NYEdChat last night on Twitter, it is clear to me, now more than ever, that teachers thrive in positivity.  This does not mean that we need to inflate each others egos or provide untruths.  It means that teachers should speak up and speak out about what IS working.  This is why writing about appreciation, not just for a week in May is integral to growth, development and cultivation of community.

I, like many of us, have already had many jobs in my short 38 years. I have had great employers and I have had horrible ones.  When I saw this image, the first thought into my head was, of course I do! I want to work hard when the hard work is recognized.  I have always thought of myself as someone who does work hard.  My parents let me get my first job when I was 10, as a Mother's Helper- before I was old enough to babysit.  I worked at the local Rec Center on Saturdays, earning a paycheck for score keeping through the winter basketball season.  (Though at the time it was really just a way for me to be around the older boys from the neighborhood who I thought were cute.)  I think I filed my first Federal tax return in middle school.  I understood that hard work pays off and leads to more work, more OPPORTUNITY. 

Teaching is the first field I have worked in where appreciation is much harder to come by than punitive gestures.  It leaves teachers feeling guarded and overly cautious, and as a result, not trusting themselves to do the work they know they are trained to do.  The work they know they are good at and in most cases they love.  At the end of year 4 I was crying almost every day at work. I should have found a new job.  I felt a loyalty to my students and stayed one more year, even through it was not a good decision.  I no longer had the support of my administration (and it was unclear why this has happened) and it felt like nothing I could do was good enough.  I had tenure.  I had great test scores.  I moved students forward every year.  It didn't matter.  I didn't feel appreciated.  I felt hated and as a result I didn't want to take on any more than I needed to.  I left right at the end of the school day.  My job that I had loved more than anything was breaking my heart.

The longer I am in the system, the more stories I hear like this.  It now frames my thinking about what it means to be a leader.  I am starting an admin program this fall and I have started to build many ideas about what it means to be a school leader. I have been watching our administration more closely, noting how teachers are supported, encouraged, developed and appreciated.  It's all food for thought as I grow in my career.

Most days, I do feel appreciated. Most days I know I play an important role at my school.  I don't know that every teacher at my school feels this way but I think it's possible for appreciation to be felt by all.  Not just for one week in May.


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