I 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”.