It’s a 7:45 a.m. staff meeting on a dark February mid-week morning. A table of danishes and coffee greats us as we enter the school library. The cold darkness fills the windows, making a stark back drop to the well-lit meeting space. Mr. Pyrek, principal, stands in front of his staff gesturing to data craftily displayed on an overhead powerpoint. In his starched oxford, khakies, and silk tie, he confidently projects the years of teaching experience that preceded his entry into administration years ago. Mrs. Smith sits next to me, snuggled on the lone rocker, eyes closed as she rocks gently. Three men sit together in a far corner, the bluish glow of their androids lighting up their faces, as their thumbs do a Russian folk dance on the tiny keyboards. Ms. Babish corrects spelling tests with a scowl, and Mrs. Coltrane stumbles into the room with a Starbucks coffee in one hand and a Lands End catalogue in the other. Two young teachers dressed smartly in corporate casual like their principal and wielding pens and notebooks, sit in front and attend eagerly to Mr. Pyrek’s lecture.
It has become a pastime of mine to spend staff meetings tallying participation. I write a “check” under names of those who speak during a meeting, and an “x” under those that interrupt others. Often the marks suggest interesting trends in the narrowness of participation, and the frequency in which colleagues neglect to truly listen to the responses of their workmates.
The scenario illustrated in the first paragraph, and the unscientific tally I use, help me see the irony in the expectations we teachers have for student behavior. When we are “in the shoes” of our students, do we show integrity in our expectations for our own behavior?
Todd Whitaker (What Teachers Do Differently) believes that great teachers have high expectations for themselves. Poor teacher have much higher expectations of their students’ behavior than they do of their own. When students are not engaged, the good teacher asks himself what he could do differently. The poor teacher blames the student, today’s society, video games, etc.
For the stellar teacher, his classroom is his domain. For him, the buck stops at the threshold of his classroom.