One of my pet peeves in education - as my friends and colleagues have probably tired of hearing - is that people often forget that children are human beings. In fact, this exists outside the field of education as well. I have seen parents - very loving parents - mock their child's stress over completing homework on nights she had soccer practice and saying things like, "Imagine being stressed over homework. I wish I still had that same kind of stress." Of course, minutes later, the mother started telling us about how stressed she was over getting all the brownies done for the bake sale while meeting a work deadline. The mother couldn't even see that she and her daughter were feeling the exact same feelings. Kids are people too.
This point is pretty basic to me. I know how I feel when I've had a late start to my morning, when I've had a fight with my husband, or when I am overwhelmed with work. I know this makes me edgy, a little snippy and overly sensitive so I understand that my students will feel the same way also. I work hard to find the underlying cause of their eye-roll, their extreme silliness (accompanied by somersault on the rug during read-aloud) or their "random" tears. And I realize that there will be many occasions when I will never figure out why they are acting in a less than positive way. But I will give them extra love anyways.
Before you roll your eyes at me and think that I am writing a self-congratulatory post, let me get to the point of this piece. I am really good at reading children and understanding when they have rough days. I am not so good at doing this for other teachers in my building. When a kid gets overly chatty during a classroom discussion, I patiently talk to them after class. When a teacher does this at a staff meeting, I get annoyed and sigh. When a kid seems kind of grouchy, I try to figure out what is going on in his or her life. When a teacher does this, I wonder why they stay in a profession they seem to hate.
I know, I know! I. Am. A. Hypocrite. What's worse is that I pride myself on being a sensitive teacher, a nurturer, a giver. And yet, I can't do it with my colleagues. Why is that? Do I expect adults to "behave" better? Do I expect them to always be positive and mature? Do I expect teachers to keep their personal lives hidden and wear a constant smile? In essence, have I forgotten that teachers are human also?
Is that teacher who has been angry with her students all year going through a divorce? Is the one grading papers at a staff meeting doing his best to not explode while listening to professional development he thinks is useless? Is the teacher rolling her eyes at her colleague's amazing student work just envious and overwhelmed because she doesn't think she can ever do that? These are the questions I should be asking instead of automatically dismissing them as bad teachers.
Now, don't get me wrong. I am still going to be a bit judgmental here. After all, the actions of these teachers affect a whole crew of little impressionable people. Every. Single. Day. But is my negative attitude helping? No. And if I really care about their students, then I need to start by helping that teacher. How? That is tonight's question for me to ponder. Maybe through a coffee date, an offer to show someone how to use the new grading software or just listening...maybe through a whole lot more. I don't really have any answers yet...but I am glad that I have started thinking about this.