I'm at an all-day professional development when our leaders hand us a sheet with our benchmark data. Instead of feeling relieved that my class is ten points above the district average, I feel pressured. I feel like my success is somehow tied to the integration of Chromebooks into our classrooms.
And I feel alone.
But then, as we work in small groups and begin to collaborate, an amazing sixth grade teacher shares how she's feeling.
"They just gave us four new things we're supposed to implement. At first, they said that these were options and then they were tights," she says.
"You look overwhelmed," I respond.
"Being compliant is making me the kind of teacher I don't want to be. There are so many tights," she laments.
"I always thought that the number of tights was supposed to be low, but in some schools, there are more tights than a ballet," I point out.
As we each continue to talk, I am struck by the fact that we are all struggling right now. It's a hard time of the year for teachers. The brutal benchmark tests are just a few months away and well-intentioned bureaucrats are creating a list of mandates for teachers to accomplish. Underachieving teachers are being shamed while high-achieving teachers are feeling pressured. It's the time of the year when the copy machine starts breaking and it's still dark in the morning and the cold seems to hang in there well past its end date.
Teachers aren't burnt out right now, but in general, they are tired and stressed. They don't need a ton of new professional development. They're not looking for new initiatives. They don't need reminders about the importance of their data. What they need, more than anything else, is a little more affirmation.