A Teacher’s Passion is Like No Other

As a full-time education consultant, Allison Zmuda works with educators to grow ideas on how to make learning for students challenging, possible and worthy of the attempt. Over the past fifteen years, Zmuda has shared curricular, assessment, and instructional ideas, shown illustrative examples, and offered practical strategies of how to get started.

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Teachers don’t enter the profession for the money. They become teachers to make a difference in the life of a child.

Four days ago, I posted a quote on the Learning Personalized Facebook page that reads, “The biggest concern for any organization should be when their most passionate people become quiet.”

That post has since been shared 114 times, reaching more than 13 times our audience, which got me thinking … why is it striking such a chord?

Extinguishing the Flame

Anne O’Brien wrote a piece on Edutopia addressing the issue of teacher frustration. She cites that the most significant challenges teachers report facing “are systemic – number one being ‘state or district policies that get in the way of teaching,’ followed by, ‘constantly changing demands placed on teachers’ and ‘constantly changing demands placed on students.'”

The bottom line? Teachers are already sacrificing the potential for a lucrative income to give back to students. It’s a running joke in education that teachers purchase their own supplies. They just can’t help themselves … it’s all about the kids.

What starts to extinguish their passion, however, are hurdles put in place that keep them from effectively doing what they love: teaching. Those hurdles feel like a slap in the face for selfless teachers who are the lifeblood of education.

3-Step Method

O’Brien’s article cites a 3-step method to help school and district leaders do a better job appreciate teachers and respecting their expertise. Those three steps are:

1. Listen

Listening is about more than sitting across a desk and hearing someone speak. It is about interpreting actions, being available, and tapping into empathy.

“For example, set up a Google document for brainstorming solutions to a particular concern,” writes O’Brien. “Personally invite the individuals whose voice tends to be missing to join the conversation.”

2. Learn

The best leaders are open to learning and growing to get even better at what they do. It is important that administrators remain open to the fact that teachers will have better insight in certain situations.

3. Lead

four filters of personalized learningJust as quality listening involves more than hearing, quality leadership involves more than directing. Administrators must facilitate and “provide teachers the support and time they need to be successful both in the classroom and in leadership opportunities that emerge when they are asked to share their input and generate solutions to school- and district-level problems.”

Teachers are both leaders and learners that impact the vitality of their classrooms and schools. Their joy and passion can be infectious, but so too can be there despondency and frustration with not being heard or being marginalized.

The four filters that Bena Kallick and I describe as essential in personalizing learning are as true for the students as they are for the educators.

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