The picture is still vivid in my mind, as is the emotion I felt when I saw it. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Here was an experienced teacher (and one I was officially and tacitly expected to model myself after) doing this kind of shit. I was at my desk and he was in the middle of the room, at the Director’s Desk, with the folder of grades for the term in front of him. As he entered the scores you could see him thinking about what to enter. He had that sort of looking-up-and-to-the-right-and-making-things-up-as-he-went-along look. It was like I could see him matching the students to the score that he was creating right then and there on the spot.
I was aghast. I was something close to disgusted. I was shocked.
Most of all, though, I was feeling superior.
How could I, the guy with a fucking spreadsheet full of scores dutifully compiled throughout the term, be asked to follow this guy as a model? It was shocking and unprofessional. It was not fair and it was not right.
18 months later I did a similar thing.
I am not exactly proud of it, but I could see how such a thing could happen (especially, in fairness, in a place like this where grades didn’t matter at all or mean anything). I have been in this TESOL racket for 15 years and I have seen a lot and I have judged more than my fair share. In this post, I’d like to share some things I have judged in the past but now don’t have such a big problem with. I’d also like to retroactively apologize to those I judged for such things. Better late than never. Sorry. Below are some of the things that drew my judgment and ire but I have since decided might not be so horrible or at least think the perpetrators might have some solid reasons for doing.
Saying “That’s not my job.”
I am not sure exactly why this bothered me so but it did. I think I had deeply ingrained beliefs about hardworkers and teamplayers being needed and wanted in the workplace. When I was younger I heard lots of teachers say this to what seemed to me like reasonable requests from admin. I thought the teachers were out of line and I thought it was unprofessional. You know, just do what you are asked and move on. I have surely changed my mind on this. I think people are hired to do the job they are hired to do and anything more than that is a new conversation and a new negotiation and a new agreement. I think it can be an extremely slippery slope when additional responsibilities are added without further payment or a decrease in other responsibilities and I think English teachers need to be aware of this. I am not saying we need to be recalcitrant but rather cognizant of the potential for increasing burdens without compensation. Inches can turn into miles if we are not careful and I think these teachers were aware of this and their actions and words made sense.
(I’d also note that sometimes it is easier and better to just do the thing and move on)
Making (to my eyes and brain) horrible materials/plans etc.
In the past, when I was in a new jobs, I was very critical of lesson plans and materials and things that were passed down to me from previous teachers. I think part of it was the feeling I’d be expected to use something made by someone else that might not work for me. There was probably the ego and “I can do better” attitude at play here as well. With more experience I can see maybe the materials they passed down were not the best stuff or were not exactly what they’d used. I think it is hard to judge such things by just how they look in my hand or on my screen months after the fact. A very intricate backstory is a possibiltiy with materials and maybe teachers were in a neguices
-type situation and just passed along any old thing and figured the next teacher/sucker can sort it out on their own. After all, many things are shyte for a reason.
Using (to my eyes and brain) horrible materials/plans etc.
Sometimes it is out of the teacher’s hands and they are not responsible for the choosing of materials. It is really that simple. Previously, I was quick to make the super judgmental decision that any teacher who was using Interchange was obviously an inferior teacher. Hopefully, now with some more perspective, I can see there might be a whole host of reasons teachers might be using Interchange that have nothing to do with their intelligence, character, or suitability as a professional.
Going to a conference but not attending sessions from others
I did this a few weeks ago. Yikes. When I saw this move from a few people 5 years ago I thought it was rude, egocentric and telling. I thought it conveyed a message of, “I have learned all I need to know” and don’t need to learn from you people, but come to my session please.” Having been guilty of this sin very recently I can see there are a variety of possible reasons for this and it doesn’t necessarily imply a massive ego or disdain for others in the field.
That is my list for now, though I believe there might be more I could add. What do you think? Are these deplorable? Have you changed your tune on any of these or any similar things? What used to cause you to wear your judgy pants but doesn’t do so any longer?