So it struck me recently how often these days, in the eyes of other educators, teacher effectiveness is measured by the harshness of the discipline they choose to employ.
It shocks me when teachers are lauded for making students cry.
I worry about my colleagues when, to impress another teacher, they feel they have to “rage” against their class.
I am disenchanted about what message it sends to new teachers when referring to an educator as a “soft touch” is an insult, and equates kindness and caring with being weak.
I am disappointed when quietly-spoken, unassuming classroom leaders are presumed to be bad at their jobs.
Now, I agree that teachers need to be firm. Create boundaries. Maintain order. I recognise that a chaotic classroom is one that is devoid of learning.
But they also need to be fair.
I no longer want to hear stories about children who pee themselves because they’re too afraid to ask the teacher to go to the bathroom.
I dream about a school staffroom where staff stop patting one another on the back and congratulating each other for their creativity when dishing out punishments.
And, most of all, I believe that it shouldn’t happen that the loudest, most dictatorial teachers are the only ones who are heard. Who are respected. Who are labelled as “good teachers”.
What if we could harness this energy directed toward being “hard” and redirect it?
Maybe this would help with teacher burnout. Maybe part of the exhaustion teachers experience at the end of every day comes from maintaining the facade of coldness and authority that is now an expected part of the school culture.
A practice that is reinforced every time an educator remarks that their students “wouldn’t dare speak in class” and their colleagues applaud.
What if, instead, teachers were praised for being soft? For being warm? For being good role models? Good people. Decent human beings. What then?
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