How to teach in a political firestorm

The teaching profession is under attack, plain and simple. Culture warriors are trying to limit what educators can say and do in the classroom about vital issues like racism and gender, pay remains low in too many places, teachers are retiring in large numbers in some places, school districts are struggling to fill positions, and some states now allow unqualified individuals to teach.

Despite all of this, a majority of Americans say they trust their public schools. The 2022 PDK Survey of American Views on Education tells the story. This survey has been conducted for nearly 50 years — and in 2022, a national representative group of public school adults in their community gave it its highest rating ever. A majority of Americans expressed confidence and trust in the teachers. Yet fewer than at any time in the survey’s history say they want their child to work as a public school teacher.

Teachers still have work to do amidst all the turmoil in public education, and this job is designed to help them do that. It was written by Roxanna Elden, who combines 11 years of experience as a public school teacher with a decade of speaking on education-related topics with humor, nuance and practical advice.

Her guide, See Me After Class: Advice for Teachers by Teachers, is a staple in school districts and educator training programs across the country. Her satirical workplace novel, Adequate Yearly Progress, follows multiple teachers as their professional lives collide with their home lives and vice versa. She also collaborates with teachers across the country in virtual office hours. This essay is an adaptation of an issue of her weekly newsletter, which you can find on her website

The hit comedy Abbott Elementary is truly a tragedy

Over the past few weeks, several of my one-on-one sessions with teachers have addressed a version of “how to teach in the current political environment.” The precise nature of this concern plays out differently for different teachers, which is one of the reasons I’ll try not to delve into specific policy debates here. do i have opinions I always have opinions! But if there’s one thing teachers never have to worry about, it’s having access to enough opinions.

This is especially true when teachers and schools are in the news more than usual, or when the media lights up with stories about how current events might impact the classroom: Are teachers scared? demoralized? defiant? Looking for new jobs? Fire and ready to turn all of this into a teachable moment?

The answer is of course all of the above. There are more than 3 million teachers in the United States. There will always be someone who will offer a quote or write an opinion piece or create a meme supporting variations on any of these reactions, which will then be available for anyone to forward to you or ask you about or tag you if they comment on social media.

Culture Warrior Teacher: Stop treating us as enemies

This would be overwhelming even if social media sites weren’t constantly tweaking their algorithms to maximize “engagement,” which sounds like a synonym for “interest,” but more accurately translates to “feelings of outrage, envy, or impending doom that are so intense you can’t turn away from the targeted ads between posts until you look up from the screen an hour later and aren’t quite sure how you got that half-empty, party-sized M&M bag.” It’s no coincidence that after an hour in the app of your choice, you feel too exhausted to tackle the tasks ahead. Which is a shame, because there are always enough tasks.

So what to do? Here are a few options.

Budget your emotional energy

At the same time, it may be true that there are issues that deserve our attention and that our brains are not built for an information cycle of 24,000 hours a day. Yes, you want to be informed and involved. And, also yesPushing endless hot takes right through your eyeballs and into your brain can drive you insane without necessarily accomplishing anything.

Fortunately, there are strategies you can use to budget your emotional energy. If you think there is a productive way to get involved, block the time and energy to do it as part of your week. The rest of the time mute the group chat. Turn off message notifications. Slowly back away from the whining session in the faculty lounge. You may find it helpful to think of this as an actual professional responsibility, which I believe is the case. Teaching is a marathon of emotional energy; You can’t afford to get dehydrated.

The problems facing teachers at this moment are new, but the cycle in which they are involved continues. The situation has always been urgent. It was always a good time to write to your congressman. Your car’s warranty has always been about to expire. Things have never been like this.

One of the most influential non-fiction books in my research for Adequate Yearly Progress was Dana Goldstein’s excellent history book, The Teacher Wars: A History of America’s Most Embattled Profession. The book highlights how many of the “brand new” ideas in education have emerged in various forms over decades, generating missionary fervor and backlash before fading into the disenchantment that leads to the next “brand new” idea. I’m not necessarily saying that you should read a history of education policy in the middle of the school year; This is a decision you should make with the help of a trained psychologist. But the subtitle of Goldstein’s book is telling: If you’ve started your career at any point in the last 200 years, you’ve always been part of “America’s Most Competitive Profession.” And that means whatever new challenges this year may bring, chances are you’ll master them.

Face the uncertainty head-on

Why is uncertainty so exhausting? Because it keeps our brains running in a hamster wheel, trying to prepare for the future without having enough information to work with. To prevent an uncertain situation from driving you crazy (just as much), make a list of what you know, what you don’t know, and specific questions you want answered. Then try to come up with as many solid, documented answers as possible so you can move more of your questions to the what-you-know list. For anything you really can’t answer, try to set some guidelines for yourself. What options do you have if situation X should arise? And what are the personal guidelines that guide you no matter what situations you find yourself in? By narrowing the range of possibilities and making at least some decisions upfront, you may be able to find more clarity.

If you think other people are misreading the story and catch you having imaginary arguments with them, write down your thoughts and think of the smartest way to share them. (Remember the two golden rules of the internet: 1) nothing that goes on the internet is private; and 2) everything on the internet lives forever.) Here’s a summary of the basics of media training I teach in public communication sessions for teachers. These tips can help you communicate with parents or others who ask you about sensitive issues. You can also worry less about the headlight unexpectedly panning your way if you know what you’d say just in case it does.

Information is power and communication builds communities. That’s why teachers are important. Don’t forget to take care of yourself. And as always, whatever you do Not read the comments.

Teachers go to the “stupidest colleges” – who said that and why does it matter?

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