Mayors and Teachers-Towards a New Job Description
After a long fought, strategic battle, Mike Duggan emerged as the next mayor of Detroit, a formidable job if there ever there was one. Can he turn the ship around, or point it in a new direction? Will he create a new narrative for Detroit? The city is in a blizzard and he has been elected to lead it out. Can he? Will he? More importantly, will he be allowed to?
Mr. Duggan still has another race to run. Over the next weeks, months the mayor will be battling/negotiating with Governor Rick Snyder, with Detroit Emergency Manager Kevin Orr, and with Detroit City Council to carve out a new role, a new job description for himself . Who will emerge as Detroit’s Chief Hope Officer?
Though not present at the meetings, there IS another rival for the title of Chief Hope Officer on whose recovery, survival, the city is dependent. Challenged with preparing a fast changing, globally competitive workforce, the Detroit classroom teacher, should also be at the INCLUDED in the groundbreaking narrative AND as an integral member of the transition team charged with turning around the city’s economic future. They too are in a blizzard and face similar formidable odds as they attempt to balance a critical thinking, problem solving curriculum for ALL students along with a malodorous mix of 21st century student behaviors – All without the compensation package, respect, or support of any of the other rivals for the title receive.
What Is The New Normal?
Once upon a time during the industrial economy, the prosperous era Detroiters have ever known, teachers balanced gum chewing, fighting, littering, making noises, and talking out of turn with a rote memorization and basic skills curriculum. They were backed up/supported by parents who used their prosperity to indulge their children in shopping sprees, toys, TVs, cars, vacations if they stayed on track with good grades and citizenship. However, the sun has been switched off of that economy.
Today, too many parents are jobless, helpless and lack emotional or financial resources to back up the classroom teacher or to support their children. And, today’s teacher faces a smelly mix of different classroom behaviors: assault, bullying, digital cheating, profanity, ongoing insubordination, verbal abuse while attempting to teach a more complex curriculum to ALL students.
How do we emotionally prepare and support teachers to teach a student population raised on a corrosive culture of celebrity, degrading songs, reality TV, sexually explicit videos. Too frequently, teachers must instantaneously decide, on the spot, how to handle such behaviors when presented to them in the classroom. And generally, they are not behaviors they witnessed in their classrooms when they were students.
What Would You Do?
Ms. Brent, a first-grade teacher walks into her classroom to witness a wiry, angelic looking six-year old writing the letters F-U-C-K on the board. She stares at him and the word. He doesn’t back down; he stares back. What should she do? What would you do? You are limited with the amount of time you have to make a decision. Thirty pairs of eyes are on you – waiting! Do you
A. Yell and banish him to a corner of the room?
B. Lecture him and the class about using such language?
C. Send him to the office/principal immediately to
D. Exclude him from class until you hold parent- conference to determine where he is learning such language?
E. Give him a timeout?
Towards a NEW Job Description – A New Narrative
Like a tightrope walker, today’s teacher (Chief Hope Officer) is also engaged in a high-wire balancing act. And, it is not work for the faint of heart, insecure, timid, or unsure. Today, effective teaching requires more than scholarship and dedication; it also requires extraordinary emotional competence and resilience in order to make the scores of decisions that ensure learning takes place. Today’s educator needs to know how to deescalate a situation and how not to meet challenges, confrontations with fear, tears, or uncertainty.
Daily, hourly an educator must be prepared to put out fires, to be a relentless, resourceful problem solver, to be comfortable amid an uncomfortable environment, to identify and to be able to make use of teachable moments. Today’s educator must find inventive ways to say no to inappropriate behaviors, too often without parental support or administrative backup.
A Chief Hope Officer at Work
Ms. Brent is aware that ALL classrooms include a few Jabaris- attention-seeking, power-grabbing disruptors who seek to win control of the learning experience. They seek to be the CEO of the classroom and to dominate the non-disrupting students who attend school each day with the sole goal of learning. Thinking on her feet, Ms. Brent decides to send a message to the class that she and not Jabari is the classroom’s real alpha dog, the real CEO.
With a firm and but unemotional tone, she declares “Jabari, I see you have written a new word for us on the board. Certainly, your handwriting is improving.” Jabari smiles. She continues. “And being able to write a word means that you are a writer and a reader. Turning to face her students, she instructs, “Class, we are going to have our language arts lesson now. Jabari, will you help us? We are going to discover how many words we already know that rhyme, sound like Jabari’s word. “
She pronounces and writes the letters D-U-C-K on the board, underlining the U-C-K sound in both words. She never repeats Jabari’s word and neither does he nor does the class. For the next ten minutes, the young male and the class engage in discovering rhyming words with the U-C-K sound. When the lesson ends, the teacher thanks Jabari.
With light feet and a happy heart, he skips back to his seat having been provided with the attention, belonging, competence, recognition he craves. The teacher has just aborted a power struggle, losing face, a possible suspension (with time away from his learning). Win, Win!
Will Detroit’s REAL Chief Hope Officers Please Stand, Be Recognized, and Be Supported as the Profession Is Reconceived, Reinvented, and Reoriented!