Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Reflections on Chaos

My school had some chaos recently (this first picture is outside of my classroom). It was unsettling. I think that I am pretty cool under pressure, that I can stay calm, and not be rattled, but I have to say I was rattled. And it made me think about a lot of things.

I love what I do. This is a recurring theme for me, but it is so because it is true. Teaching is hard. On an easy day, teaching is hard. I love it. But it is hard.

During the peak of our chaos, I received a message from my mom (after I had let her know I was ok, yeah, it was that kind of day) commenting that I must have been wishing at that moment to have called in sick. The thing is, I was so absolutely glad I was there. I didn’t want to be in the middle of the situation we were dealing with, but I would not have wanted “my kids” to have that chaos with a sub. Subs are great, but in a difficult situation, the connection to my kids/my students was that much more important. I was able to keep calm, keep them calm, assure them as best I could that things were ok.

I teach, not because I love Literature, but because I love teaching, because it’s the best job in the world. It’s about the kids, not the content. The content changes, different standards, different courses, different levels… but that’s not the focus.

I was asked by a student the morning we were in the LA Times if I was embarrassed to work here. With an unequivocal no, I had to explain, “our school has a black eye right now, and it hurts, but I am not embarrassed to be here. I love what I do, this job is too hard to do if you don’t love it.”

As teachers we put up with a lot. We put up with a lot because what we do is important. We put up with small things like kids always forgetting a pencil (because, you know, they didn’t think they would need one today), to big things like the media villainizing the teaching profession. We have kids that need us in ways we can’t imagine when we first step foot into a classroom, and we put up with all the things they do to push us away and pull us in. We put up with supervisors trying to climb the professional ladder using our work as their success. We put up with so much.  But we prepare our lesson plans, grade our papers, and show up day after day, because it is the kids who we are there for.

So, when my school fell into chaos, it was important that I was there because of the kids.

On the other end of this, I am frustrated by the chaos that occurred. I wish the incidents leading to the chaos hadn’t occurred of course, but can’t help think that the grand chaos was avoidable if things had been handled differently.

I think our chaos would have been mild and almost unnoticeable (even to those of us on campus) had the grown-ups managed the situation better. The initiating incident was caused by students, there is no doubt about it, but the chaos that followed was a result of mixed signals and a lack of communication that bred fear.

Communication is such a huge issue. On a large campus (2000 students) communication systems need to be in place to manage getting information to groups quickly. Social Media needs to used as a tool by institutions to provide information to stakeholders; otherwise the only information that is available is rumor. And rumor is scary. There are many tools available to help get information out, Remind is one example, but beyond using a particular brand/product, a system of clear communication needs to be laid out so everyone can learn information quickly and correctly and minimize the chaos of a difficult situation.

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