Monday, January 23, 2012

Rant and Reconciliation: Thoughts on Being a Teacher

"A great leader's courage to fulfill his vision comes from passion, not position."

This quote was posted this morning by my friend Anthony. I do not know John Maxwell the man that said this, but I know a bit about what he is saying. I have lived by the mantra for fourteen years, that teaching as Yeats said, "is the lighting of a fire not the filing of a pail." The very act of my craft is to create, or to spark, and the institutions that I have chosen to work for are in the business of putting out fires. We hear about this "position" or that one, but we never hear what any of these people believe in or how it fits with what we (the teachers) believe is right. With all due respect to those in charge of higher education they are not effectively communicating what the implications of leadership, or living a passionate life in public schools will mean. It is worth noting that at the root of the word passion is the idea we must submit to something. In my case, a love of teaching and learning. In the last three years as my passion waned, I began to see clearly, for the first time, the futility of the individual contribution - a reality that I did not want to face, a truth that I thought could be overcome by simply picking up the mantle and marching on. Perhaps the gift of age is wisdom; I now know that nothing can be done alone or in isolation. Whether personal or social, the reality is we need each other, but more importantly we need each other only in as much as we recognize the need for concensus about change. Public schools are in danger for a reason and in my experience it is not because of the work of most teachers and certainly not the fault of children. It is about leaders who lack courage. It is because leaders are unwilling to submit to their passions in order to find a vision which demands courage to be realized. Sadly, because leaders agree to paper-work and compliance instead of relationships that nuture teachers and students, they and their buildings are empty.

The above statement will not earn me any money today, but it will bring me peace of mind. I must move through this clouded reality that I have presented. I have so much to learn about how to temper my vision in a way that I can be heard again and bring hope to this great profession. Integrity pays more in dividends to the soul than any pay check. What is my passion, you ask?: children, ideas, learning, and transformation. In the last few weeks these were never part of any discussion ( a superior rating, 323 students who have completed four year colleges and are gainfully employed). Ironically, it is the behavior of administrators - their daily modeling - that children see and learn from everyday. At least my students had a chance to learn some honesty. My goal as I move forward will be to ensure that I do not allow what matters to leave my mind, or my lips, until I can say it in a way that can spawn change. Do not give the other side all the ammunition Andrew: they may shoot themselves, or worse, you.

Andy Flaherty, 2012 Graduate of Chicago Public Schools

No comments:

Post a Comment