Monday, October 11, 2010

You are either moving forwards or you are moving backwards

Yesterday I was reading a post from Andrew Torris, the Deputy Superintendent from Shanghai American School.  He drew an analogy between teaching and marathon running:
Like a long distance runner preparing for a race I expect a teacher to plan their career in the same way. I need teachers who can see past the next vacation or school year and consider what they need to do continue to improve, to learn and to reach their ultimate potential throughout the entirety of their career. As new employees come to our school we have a long conversation within the interview process about career goals. Professional stagnation is not an alternative at our school. We ask that people take their goals seriously. We ask that they stay professionally current and focused on goals that can be supported not only by the teacher but also by the organization. 
This post was especially meaningful to me as I'm involved in goal setting right now and in discussing these goals with my administration.  I love the way that at SAS the focus is further than the current school year and that the organization is also responsible for supporting the teacher to reach his or her goals.  I love goal setting - I always see it as a positive experience, though for me it has been hard to focus on goals that are long-term as I'm not sure how long I will be staying in my current school.  However what this post has made me realise is that my personal goals need not be just for this school - they can be goals that I will reach after perhaps many years and in a different school.

Before I moved to Switzerland I already decided that there were areas where I wanted to professionally develop myself.  In Asia I had thought about workshop leader training, but had to commit to staying 2 more years in the region, something that I didn't want to do.  Recently, however, I have been accepted onto WLT training in my new region - so this is a goal I had some years ago that will only now be realised.  In the same way I would eventually like to be involved in ADE training as I was unable to attend the planned ADE Institute in Singapore when the "yellow shirts" blockaded the airport in Bangkok a couple of years ago.  Last week I moved a little closer to that goal too, when I met with someone from Apple who is keen to restart the ADE programme in Switzerland.  

To me you have to keep moving forwards - it's not possible to stand still.  Either you are making progress or you are falling back.  Moving forward always involves taking risks - some people don't like to be out in front where everything you do gets noticed - good and bad.  They'd rather keep their heads down and stay safe.  Andrew Torris addresses that too:
Like a runner, a good stretch outside of one’s own comfort zone keeps a teacher professionally limber. We all know the person who strives to stay in their comfort zone, They never take risks. Their constant focus is to remain in the middle part of the pack (or the back) but not stand out in last pace. Mediocrity is their norm. 
I have another thought about this too:  sometimes it is not enough just to be moving forwards, sometimes if you are not moving forwards fast enough you are still moving backwards compared with everyone else, and that's probably the hardest of all to deal with and when you start to question if you really can make the distance.

Photo Credit:  Morning runner by Olivier

1 comment:

  1. Mediocrity can not be an option in schools. Just as I wouldn't want a mediocre doctor, I don't want a mediocre teacher. I want the best of the best who is constantly honing their craft and learning to become better. We all should be striving for this and that means taking steps in the forward direction.