Dear Mrs Marbury,
Earlier this morning you told me I wasn’t a good teacher. Your words were arrows and you were shooting wildly without pause. Words like “tough population” and “ data collection” and other buzz words you rehearsed poured from your lips and rang with persistence. After being told that perhaps the job is not for me, along with the recommendation that I reconsider teaching altogether, I left the office feeling inferior.
Maybe Mrs Marbury was right. Shooting me with information on the toughness of the job hit the target. Bulls eye, I could’ve responded. Congrats, Mrs. Marbury, you called me out on it. I’m not a good teacher and simply can’t do what nyc heroes do 180 days a year.
But when I left her office, a recurring thought came into mind. Mrs. Marbury spends 95 percent of her day inside her brightly lit office. Her brown swivel chair practically has a slightly round permanent imprint. The pictures hanging on her walls have smiling children that awkwardly stand alongside Mrs. Marbury. In nearly every single digitally printed photo, Mrs Marbury has her hand placed atop their shoulder, beaming at the camera. But when the pose is finished, so is her smile, and posture, and had she known the child’s name, that would be finished too.
This made me realize that she can’t be right. Her knowledge would need to be based on her direct observation of me as an educator. Furthermore, her idea of whether or not I can effectively handle a classroom would need to come from listening to how well my students loved reading non fiction books. Her psychic knowledge of my teaching strategy would need to be based on knowing that my students watched my power point slides and listened to fictional stories that I authored— all of which taught them that solving a math problem and reading a fiction story with character conflict can be fun and worth investigating.
I wonder if she knows that before turning on my smart board and giving out assignments, I gave students a microphone and stage. No, there wasn’t literally a mic, and no, their stage was merely an alphabetical rug in the room. But that’s where communication, team building, and most importantly, a willingness to listen took place. When given a ball, students would have two minutes to air out their thoughts. Being upset was ok. Being happy was ok—so was being neutral and simply preferring to be withdrawn for a bit.
Students would learn that the entire class, including teachers and paraprofessionals, want to listen to them. They want to listen to their greeting and whether or not they are happy or upset, they want to actually know why. An environment of empathy and understanding and a willingness to be present was fostered through our morning meeting.
I wonder if Mrs. Marbury, the principal of the school, who prides herself on being the director of P.S 329 knows what it is like to actually know the students she is servicing. What is it like to leave the office, push the swivel chair aside, and admire an all about me biography created by a student? I don’t think Mrs Marbury would know that. And truthfully, I do not think Mrs Marbury would know whether or not I am awful, decent, or a great educator either.
Mrs Marbury knows the game of chess. She moves the pawns with speed and precision, willing to sacrifice most, if it means the large pieces survive. In the words of The Wire, “D” told Bodie that pawns get capped quick—to which Bodie responded: “ not unless they some smart-ass pawns.
Although we teachers, service providers, and paraprofessionals are mere pawns compared to the administration, I hope that we can recognize the effectiveness of our work, shedding light on our effort and success as role models and mentors for children to learn from. Maybe when we raise awareness and continue to strive, not willing to succumb to feelings of inadequacy planted by administration, we can shine and relish on the knowledge that we ARE good teachers. Regardless what some principal tells me, I can calmly say that I am one of many daily superheroes.