Tuesday, April 25, 2006


“Relationships among educators within a school range from vigorously healthy to dangerously competitive. Strengthen those relationships, and you improve professional practice.” (Roland S. Barth)

After reading a recent article by Roland S. Barth in Educational Leadership, March 2006 I began to reflect on relationships among professionals here at QHST. For the first time I now understand what being "colleagues" means. (Ironically its only because we are colleagues I'm not afraid to admit my lack of understanding)

College students surely never envision teaching as a solo profession. How can they? There are 100 teachers in a building, there are faculty rooms, department offices, teacher's cafeterias and let us not forget the 34 new faces every 60 mins. They all understandably believe this until the step foot into a NYC school.

I clearly remember stepping into my first middle school job in Queens. I was given a room, no explanation of what was expected of me, no real advice and no knowledge about where to find help or if it even existed. I was alone (with exception of the 34 seventh graders who just got off summer break).

Sure there was a sense of "congeniality"(Barth), pseudo-friendly relationships between teachers talking about anything other than the teaching profession. Conversations around ballgames, TV shows, and vacation planning took up all the adult gatherings in the "professional" rooms around the building. No one spoke about work because no one trusted each other. Everyone was uncomfortable sharing their accomplishments, or their heartaches of classroom experiences. Asking a question of pedagogy was seen as a weakness. These conversations quickly became the breeding ground for cliques and antithetical for developing a positive school culture.

Closing the door and doing your own thing seemed to be what teachers did. And we did it in isolation. ( and of course we all thought we were doing it well)

Here for the first time in my short career there is a sense of "collegiality" (Barth). Professional relationships based on critical feedback from respected peers are the norm in the school culture that has been created here at QHST. During lunch breaks teacher's conversations are centered on sharing their craft.

ALL teachers here at QHST work extremely hard, and having these conversations, being comfortable enough to know its ok to share something you are struggling with professionally is an amazing feeling.

When we as a school voted against the CFG meetings I was concerned about the loss of the professional conversation. I do miss meeting everyone in my SLC together to have an "open and honest" feedback session, but the school culture of an ongoing professional reflective conversation seems to be continuing.

Being on a team of colleagues this year has been a true growth experience for me.

Please read the hyperlinked article (Click Here)and leave a comment below...

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