What advice do you have if I am teaching and trying new things and trying to teach with best practice in mind, but my colleagues are not…the difficulty is that MY students see that EVERYONE else is just playing games and that’s it, so it leaves me fighting alone…any thoughts?
Note: Other information was shared via private email that is too much or personal to share here. However, the answer below is one that can help provoke in other situations where you feel your colleagues are not pulling their weight, you are in a transient situation, and everyone knows what is going on.
Anne – Marie:
Your situation seems to have many frustrating parts that have been piling up over time and circumstance. I am sorry you are in this unfortunate situation because you sound like a passionate, caring educator. The fact that you are so concerned and reaching out for help to change things means you care, and that is admirable. I have seen teachers who somewhat give up and get stuck in routine, which is ultimately not in the best interest of the students.
I am going to try to break this down to help provide prospective and suggestions then tie it back together at the end with suggestions.
Focus on Next Year:
I don’t know how many weeks you have left in the year. With any suggestions I provide, I would consider thinking about how you can implement it at the start of next year.
Too Many Indians in The Kitchen; Not Enough Chiefs.
You have seven teachers in one dept., which is a great amount, and it sounds like each has their own agenda and concerns. I imagine the retiring teacher is sliding towards retirement and is focused on just getting by. It sounds like the non-tenured teacher does not want to get involved and maintain tenure, and it sounds like the other teachers are just throwing the ball out to let the kids play. With so many different ideas and agenda’s, it seems natural no one would be on the same page.
Given this circumstance, I wonder if there is a Dept. Head? If there is, which one is it, and what is his or her take on all this? Who is the Chief here because it seems you are missing one.
I wonder if there is way to bring everyone on the same page. Whether it be a weekly meeting where you all plan together, or one person taking charge of the planning for everyone. Maybe each person plans a unit? Maybe have an all stakeholders meeting to sort through this? There has to be a viable way to achieve this.
The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same:
3 Principals in 9 years! Wow. That is a great amount of change. Each Principal must have their own agenda, strengths, weaknesses, and management style. It makes sense the PE teachers that have been there before you and even know are so able to do so little. Where is the accountability? You are telling me that they are aware of the issues but choose to do nothing about it. That should answer your question about how valued PE is in the school. Sounds like it is not valued very much, which makes sense in this era of testing. Certain subjects like math, reading, and science are taking priority. I can see how PE takes a back seat while each Principal that comes through needs to focus on the core subjects and any discipline issues that happen in your middle school. Therefore, as each new Principal comes through, they have to start over, and by the time they get to know the situation, they are gone. So the change actually works against progress in a way and keeps things the same.
You cannot control this, and it sounds like you have communicated your concerns and needs to each Principal.
Communication is Key:
In your description you said you are outspoken and voice your opinions. And you seem to acknowledge that your style of communication has rubbed some people the wrong way.
In a nutshell, it sounds like a different approach is needed because what you described is not getting desired results. While it is hard for me to go into detail about what might work, I want to suggest a book I think will help you come up with some ideas. It is called “How to Influence People and Win Friends” by Dale Carnegie.
I say this because I think your best solution to this frustration is through communication techniques. And this book is amazing. I read it, and it shows practical, simple ways to do what the title says.
You Can Only Control What You Teach and How You Teach It
My mentor once told me this, and it was the best advice I got. Sometimes you have to just shut out everything else and do your best. Because in the end all you can control is what you teach and how you teach it. Sometimes people will follow your lead, and sometimes it’s hard to teach an old dog new tricks.
The positive of this solution is that it gains respect. I had a colleague who went to a school (Elementary), where she had to teach in the hallway, was dealing with bratty and gossipy teachers who tried to sabotage her. She ran a dynamic program and started to get respect and acknowledgement. She did not let the circumstances around her distract her.
Bringing it Together
You are dealing with a fractured and dysfunctional situation where there are too many circumstances out of your control that are influencing and affecting your ability to work at your best.
The way I see it, you have a few options here based on what you told me and my own experiences, which I hope are not off base.
Option 1) Try to bring everyone to the table that is a stakeholder (Teachers, Administrator, P.E. Supervisor, and even Kids) and get on the same page. I include kids because if you get their feedback in writing of how things are not working it can help aid you. The children are why we are all here. That will involve a different use of communication style and clear objectives and agenda for the process.
Option 2: Accept it the way it is and do your best. Like I said, if this had been this way for nine years and through three principles, it may not change until the one teacher retires, a different principal comes in that cares, or some other act of nature. So, accepting that, and seeing things as they are, move forward and create the dream program you want on your own. Get the kids to buy in, and at some point your work will bring the respect and attention you desire. It may take time, because you are discussing a culture change. And like you said it takes time. But one person can make a difference. History teaches us that. Henry Ford, Ben Franklin, Steve Jobs. Formula 409 is called that because it took 409 times to get the formula right.
Option 3: Opt out. I do not know your system well enough to know your options. However, maybe your skills are better suited for another environment where people value what you value and you will have an easier time. As Kenny Rodgers always said, “You’ve got to know when to hold them and know when to fold them.”