The Life of Bon: When your work asks you to "engage only in positive conversations."

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

When your work asks you to "engage only in positive conversations."

This year my school is starting up with a new evaluation system.  Education is kind of weird.  I have only been teaching five years and already I feel like I have gone through several cycles of "THIS IS THE NEXT BIG THING!  THIS IS SO MUCH BETTER THAN WHAT WE WERE DOING BEFORE!  THIS IS GOING TO CHANGE EVERYTHING ABOUT EDUCATION!"  I guess I'm getting kind of weary of all the new stuff they are constantly rolling out.  We learn one system just in time for the next "bigger and better".  Kind of like cell phones!

Part of the new evaluation system involves a "self assessment" created by our district.  The questions ask teachers mostly stuff about how we are incorporating the new core, if we try to differentiate instruction based on students' needs, how often we collaborate with peers, etc.

I had no problem with the self assessment and was breezing along just fine.  Then I came to the following statement and was asked to click yes or no.

I promote positive interactions about students and parents, engage in only positive conversations and extinguish negative conversations in the school and outside community.

The question made me uncomfortable.  It felt like 1984 and the thought police in real true life.  Only positive conversation?  Not only that, but I am supposed to be "extinguishing" any negative conversation?  But what if there are problems in the school? (There are!)  What if there are things in our education system that need to be fixed? (There are!)  Why can't we talk about that?

I was a bit insulted by this question, truthfully.  It made me feel like I work for a system that doesn't value honest feedback, that doesn't trust me to say what is really going on, and doesn't care about my ideas for improvement.  Sometimes problems need to be brought into the light, not swept under the rug.  It frustrates me that a self assessment like this makes me feel guilty if I click "no" on that statement.

If I am being totally honest with you, knowing what I can and can not say about my job online has always been an immense struggle for me.  My principal asked me a year ago to be "very careful" about what I write online.  He was especially concerned about this post that I wrote about frustrations with parents. As a result of our conversation, I pulled back considerably with what I wrote about school, but I didn't stop completely.  I respect my principal a great deal, I love my job, and I feel extremely grateful to be teaching at the school where I am.  I also understood his concerns. That being said, I think we both knew that he couldn't exactly order me to not write or voice those frustrations.  That would be a violation of my free speech.  And what good does that do us in the long run, anyway- for me to not write that post and act like everything is fine, when the truth is that educators need a great deal more amount of trust and support than we are currently getting from parents.

I guess what I want to know is how much you think a job can regulate what people say?  Is it unfair for my work to ask that of me?  Obviously there are some jobs that require much more secrecy than others, and, of course, in my field there is the protection of students to think about.  But what should be allowed to discuss?  Would it make you uncomfortable if your employer was asking you to only engage in "positive conversations" about your work?

1 comment:

  1. I am in my second year of retirement. I taught 5th grade for 33 years! Teaching school used to be the greatest!!! When I first started in 1980, you picked your own textbooks to long as it was on the district approval list. (You didn't even have to have the same textbooks as someone on your team!!!) We were a respected students, parents, administration, and district! Our teaching license was renewed automatically, for free, as long as we were currently teaching.
    In the late 80s, we had "Career Ladder", and began to be evaluated. It really was no big deal! Testing was done each year, but it was not dwelled on!!! It was soooo easy to teach!!!
    The last 4 or 5 years of my career were horrible!!! Some was because of the Common Core. By then, teachers were not respected. Collaboration, differentiation, testing...and you no longer had a life!!!
    I taught with a very wise man for my first 17 years. Three weeks before he retired, he was diagnosed with cancer. Lived 3 more years. About my third year of teaching, he would tell me how much things had changed since he began teaching in the early 1960s. He said education constantly changes. Every new thing that came along..."You jump on the bandwagon, you jump off the bandwagon!!!" I have seen soooo much of that!!! (Are you able to do your self evaluation during a time you get paid??? Probably not.) More and more is required!
    I loved teaching! I got in it at the right time...with everything!!! My district (Alpine) even has a stipend when you retire...if you began teaching before 1990. Almost 3% times number of years taught!!! (That was set up when teachers were respected!)
    Good luck with jumping through all the hoops and jumping on and off the bandwagon!!! I now love having a life!!!