DisruptED TV Magazine
The Paradigm of an Empty Promise
By Joseph Lento
When the human psyche is explored we discover some basic inherent traits each of us shares with the overriding themes of survival and improvement. Survival encompasses good nutrition, healthy habits and a safe physical environment. Improvement in oneself comes in the form of improving the mind, body or both in the pursuit of a good income from which we can enhance our overall life experiences. To meet these needs we decided that providing a broad public education to people would give everyone the opportunity to make a life in which we could nourish our survival and improvement traits. It sounds like a great idea, right? Well, it is, except that the paradigm created for such a grand, noble, majestic and highly important endeavor isn’t grand, noble or majestic and is certainly treated as if it were anything but highly important. The paradigm of an empty promise to provide the educational setting in which these two inherent traits has proven to be an empty one.
In those shared inherent traits of learning survival and improvement, people want and need Teachers whom they can respect. When people do not respect Teachers they recoil and seek their needs elsewhere. This is the result of society ironically disrespecting the very people who are highly trained to provide the skills and information students need for survival and improvement and instead respect a celebrity driven society, and the students pick up on that message from a very early age.
Students from Pre K through College are most impressionable, and in their schools they don’t see people who are respected. They don’t see people who are autonomous. They see people who can’t so much as use the restroom when they need to. They see and feel the presence of a suppressing and oppressive work environment in which highly educated people are regularly berated, belittled and bullied by their work environment. This is the opposite of how they see celebrities being treated, and when this happens, the survival and improvement traits say ‘ I’m not going to listen to someone who has no power.’ It is at that juncture we can find students misbehaving, tuning out and sadly dropping out.
Let’s face it, do you gravitate towards or away from people you do not respect? Are there Teachers who are able to overcome this debilitating paradigm? Yes, but they are the exception and not the rule and to think that it’s possible (in any field) to find enough people to overcome an oppressive working environment set of rules is unrealistic. No one should have to fight an oppressive and disrespectful paradigm in order to show their acumen. The answer is to completely do away with the ‘top down’ system of educational management we have because it’s driving out students and their teachers.
Who’s Really Standing in Front of the Room?
We talk about asking great questions so students can give great answers, but human beings tend not to ask anyone about anything for whom they have been told is a ‘failure’ which is exactly what our young people have been told about their Teachers. They hear this at home, they hear it in school and they see on the Internet. With all this erroneous bombardment of Teachers, would you listen to them? If I didn’t know any better, neither would I.
Teachers are portrayed as the ‘wanna be’ something else people who failed and went into education. Even if that were true in a small percentage of cases, is that not true in other fields? No industry is void of people who wanted to do something else but became a doctor, lawyer or carpenter and with great success. The difference in those instances is that they are not regularly berated because they are respected. Good, bad or indifferent, people in other professions are respected.
I have a novel idea. How about we have a nationwide campaign in which young people are told that the person in front of the room has a minimum of one Bachelors and one Masters Degree. Most have up to two Masters Degrees and up to thirty credits above that while people in most professions do not have nearly the same credentials. While we’re at it, let’s tell the young people that their Teachers put in an average of 20 hours of unpaid overtime per week, and let’s not forget that summer vacation is unpaid furlough.
To redirect the awful public image we as Educators have been given, I fight back by self promotion. That’s right, self promotion. Today it’s called ‘branding’ but it’s not something we as Educators are supposed to do, and why not? Well that’s an entirely other commentary for another day, but for now, brand yourself!!
The first thing I do in branding myself each semester is to hand my students my Resume. It lists all my credentials, awards, professional endeavors etc. I also dress with a suit and tie each and everyday. Then I take out my Trumpet and play the most challenging piece in my repertoire. At that point I’ve established myself but not without my famous line of ‘do you think they found me at the Bus Stop and said ‘Lento, come and teach here’ do you? The reaction is always a positive one because in a friendly, humorous and professional manner, I have put my face on my Classroom for my students. I also call my Classroom a ‘Conservatory’ so the students view it with an elevated lens. That’s how I brand myself and you can do likewise in your way.
Be an Advocate in Action
Lastly (and for the sake of your students) please consider that putting your face on your career is professional advocacy. When you become your best advocate, then your students will finally have the advocate they need. They will treat you with respect and treat themselves with respect because they now know that the school didn’t find you standing at the Bus Stop and asked you to come in and teach. They now know that you are a professional with an extensive background and most of all, you have respect for yourself because you have earned it and your students will strive to do the same.