When I present my keynote presentation and one-day leadership seminar for public school teachers, I find that Superintendents really struggle. They struggle because they very much want to motivate, inspire and equip the teachers in their school systems, but they are burned out because of all of the complaints and stress caused by No Child Left Behind.
They struggle bringing motivational programs and seminars to their schools, especially if there are open forums included in those programs where teachers discuss their stresses with No Child Left Behind. The focus of the forum becomes teachers talking about how difficult it is to teach with all of the requirements associated with it.
Teachers have every right to be completely done with No Child Left Behind and teaching to the test. Many of these fine educators came into the profession with a strong calling and desire to make a difference. What I want to say to those Superintendents is that I hear you. You want to motivate these teachers and you care about them, but you struggle with the can of worms you open when No Child Left Behind becomes such a topic of conversation that is takes over discussions.
Instead of trying certain methods of facilitation or other canned communication methods, (methodologies people will try to teach you that aren’t even in the public school system on a daily basis and don’t really know the world you live in), my suggestion is to simply say to your teachers that you are struggling with how to balance allowing them to talk about how stressful it is, with wanting to turn the conversations back to how, amid teaching to the test and the pressures of raising standardized testing scores, can we still make a big difference in the student’s lives. Tell them you deeply empathize and know they are in difficult positions, but let them know that there will be times you simply have to say “I hear you, and it is time to start talking about how to have positive influences on the students amid a system that is difficult.”
Make it as fun as you can. When they start talking about the stressers and it has gone on too long, bring out some funny stress ball, or a picture of yourself when you first get up in the morning, or a picture of you in a straight jacket (get creative) and pull it out and say “okay troops, here’s where we are… lets pull back to what we ‘can’ do for our students.” Get the teachers to bring in funny pictures about stress you can use in these forums and meetings.
Hope this helps superintendents and teachers out there. Thank you for what you do every day. It is heroic.