It Takes a Village

gold-268640_1280I used to work at  school that refused to nominate teachers for any of the awards governments and other organisations provided to acknowledge the work of teachers.  This was a collective decision by the staff.

Our reasoning was simple: we believed that none of us could, as individuals, take credit for the success of our work. We were a team and our successes were a product of many people working together.

Last year, part of my role included support for students who were not meeting expected outcomes in English or mathematics. I’d work with specific students three times per week. Someof the students made incredible gains.

If we were to give an award for that success, who should receive it?

Surely I’d deserve recognition, after all, I’d been the one working closely with those children?

Then again, I wasn’t their only teacher. Their classroom teachers worked with them most of the day, five days a week. There were also  the teachers who’d taught them the year before, identified their specific weakness in learning, and actually started the remediation process?

What about the parents, who were also supporting the learning in their own way at home?

And where does the school P&C fit in? Perhaps they should receive the award as they were the ones who funded the program that allowed me to work with these needy students.

Of course,  let’s not forget the principal who provided the vision, time, resources and professional learning that enabled us to support these students.

I think if any one of us were to receive an award, we’d feel a little uncomfortable.  We know we aren’t working alone.  It would be unfair to place the contribution of one team member above the contributions of the rest.

It’s important to celebrate success, but I’m not convinced that teacher awards are the best way to do that. They suggest that teaching is a solo endeavour and it’s not, it never has been.

As terrific blogger and deep thinking Twitter colleague (whom I recommend you follow) Aaron Davis says so frequently,  “it takes a village”.

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9 thoughts on “It Takes a Village

  1. You make a great point Corinne. I think that it is greater than ‘awards’. Personally, I think that it comes back to who we choose to recognise. A point I made in my post on rewards and celebrations (http://readwriterespond.com/?p=93). I wonder if it comes back to mindset. Ironically, shouldn’t we be celebrating the success of the students, rather than that of the teacher? That is why ‘measuring’ performance and development is so difficult (http://readwriterespond.com/?p=84). To end with a different perspective, we so often talk about celebrating success, what about reflecting on failure? (http://readwriterespond.com/?p=87)

    • HI Aaron, thanks for commenting and linking back to some really interesting posts. . Yes I agree, it goes beyond awards. I have similar difficulties with the idea of performance pay. If we do need a measure, I think the Australian Professional Teaching standards are probably a better tool.

  2. Hi Corinne,
    Hope 2015 is a great year for you. Always enjoy reading your blog. Great insight here. It certainly “takes a village”. For most teachers the thrill / reward is about making a difference to students rather than receiving accolades. Schools which are focused on enabling teachers is what we need.

    • Hi Richard,
      Nice to hear from you and hanks for commenting. I agree completely – both with the intrinsic reward of making a difference, and the focus on enabling teachers to do just that. I hope 2015 is great for you, too.

  3. Thanks for another thought provoking read Corrine.
    I am pretty much against teacher ‘awards’. Like most things, the people who are best at ‘selling’ themselves are rewarded. It can also creates a false heirachy of value.
    There is also the issues of self inflation leading to enevidble deflation when all of a sudden you feel that you are not achieveing the qualities of an ‘award winning teacher’.
    I see the value that awards have in promoting our proffesion but I think the negative outweigh the positives. – Maybe I just have sour grapes that I’ve notbeen ‘awarded’…
    I subscribe to the village ideals too.

  4. I have won one of those awards. My principal nominated me. The primary reason was for creating a network of teachers on edmodo, among other things. I wasn’t completely comfortable with it but I honestly didn’t think I would win. I don’t see myself as doing anything special, extraordinary or different to any of my colleagues. It was nice to be recognised by my new principal as worthy of nomination. It made me feel good about what I had accomplished and mum was really proud. It is a double edged sword though. Nothing I did was in isolation & in no way am I better than anyone else I teach with. Did my colleagues feel ripped off that I got an award & they didn’t? Quite the opposite. They were happy for me and glad of the positive press it gave the school. We should celebrate good teachers. We should shout their virtues to the world because, let’s face it, there is a very vocal group who try and deride us every chance they get.

  5. Hi Corinne,
    Your post struck a chord with me as I was the recipient of an award last year and felt exactly as you in regard the collegiality it takes to create success in our profession. I reconciled with the idea after many discussions with the people who nominated me as seeing it as a recognition of ‘people like me’. People who work quietly in the background, encourage, contribute and respond. Any ‘success’ or as I prefer to think of it as ‘positive impact’ I have had, has been due to the response and actions by those around me.
    I am aware of no teacher who strives to be a better teacher in search of an award they all do it with the goal of improving relationships and outcomes.
    Regards
    Celia Coffa
    @ccoffa

  6. Hi Corrine,

    It does take a village, no doubt about that! What I find challenging at times, is that the majority of teachers ‘deserve’ the award of behalf of the school/village that raises the learning and growth of the child. In saying that, my observation of the small minority of those (in my eyes) who don’t contribute, may be different from others. So, let’s get on with the thinking that we all contribute, in different ways, to the village that raises the education for all children/young people who are educated in that village; all the time knowing, parents/guardians are the primary educators.

    Thanks for your blog

    Regards
    Greg

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