If the Shoe Fits

https://flic.kr/p/ovKsFR

As a new addition to an established staff and faculty, I am forging connections in my physical workspace at the same time that my digital network is widening.

Being a Connected Educator, for me, means I must plug in to an existing network of relationships in my building and community.  This year in particular, I see that we don’t truly “get” what someone else’s job is…unless we’ve stepped into their shoes.

https://flic.kr/p/ovKsFRDuring Connected Educator Month, many of us have been expanding our Professional Learning Networks,  or PLNs. Making digital connections with others offers personal and professional growth. The exchange of ideas with colleagues who happen to work hundreds or thousands of miles away is easier than ever.

As a new addition to an established staff and faculty, I am forging connections in my physical workspace at the same time that my digital network is widening. Being a Connected Educator, to me, means I must plug in to an existing network of relationships in my building and community. This year in particular, it is becoming clearer that we don’t truly “get” what someone else’s job is…unless we’ve stepped into their shoes.

In the past decade, I have been a substitute teacher, elementary school receptionist, teacher assistant, English language specialist (K-12), and now a high school Instructional Tech Facilitator and Testing Coordinator. Buy one, get one free. Each experience has given me a chance to wear a different pair of shoes.

Anything with a heel is long gone!

We have so many misconceptions about what the rest of us do on a daily basis. They are often based on the perceptions of the outliers. The one person who takes two-hour lunches casts a shadow on the people in the same position who work while eating. The car tires squeeling out of the parking lot behind the last bus are leaving exhaust on the hard workers who arrive the moment the doors are unlocked and stay after dark.

Faced with fallacies about what we do day in and day out by our own colleagues, can you imagine what John Q. Public thinks? What must our legislators think we do all day? No wonder we have to visit our legislature every summer session to warn them of the real-world consequences of budget cuts.  It seems like the more distance there is between you and students, the wider the gap between perception and reality.

There were some great conversations this summer in the Collaboratory about “dating” our lawmakers. See Justin Menkel’s blog post about a great first date. We definitely need to engage more decision-makers in discussions to bust the myths. If they are misled or just plain wrong, the people in the trenches should be the ones to set the record straight. I can convey my concerns to state representatives about why we need teaching assistants, but only if I actually know what they do.  Likewise, the number of decisions that come to me top-down from people who have no idea what happens on the way down is staggering.

How many of us have offered our shoes to a policymaker?   I’d love to know someone who actually was successful in having a legislator do your work for a day.  We have some former educators in our General Assembly.  They used to be administrators and teachers, but I wonder if they even realize how much has changed so rapidly.

Last season’s pair is no longer in style.  It’s time for some new insoles. 

November is around the corner and NEA’s American Education Week would be a prime time to extend an invitation. Two of my state legislators are attending a “Meet and Mingle” event hosted by Chatham County Association of Educators, our local professional education organization at the end of the month. Even though they are busy on the campaign trail, I want them to commit to Educator for a Day on November 20th.

http://www.nea.org/assets/img/content/450x120.jpgThe NEA toolkit recommends two to three months of planning time, but the in-person invite will have to be my starting place.

In the meantime, as I continue to connect to educators near and far, I will make a pledge.  I will acknowledge that until I walk a mile in the shoes of someone else in my building, I will respect that they are doing a ton of work invisible from where I stand in my own misunderstood footwear.

Won’t you pledge to acknowledge a colleague during American Education Week, too? There’s still time to send your invitations, too!

 

Shoes Image from page 98 of “The Canadian nurse” (1905) retrieved from https://flic.kr/p/ovKsFR with no known restrictions.

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