I was talking, recently, with some colleagues about anticipated changes in our department. We were getting a new director and were sharing some of our hopes for the new arrangement. The people in the conversation were all what you might call — in education — “non-core,” so it surprised me that the comment that really struck me came from a friend in Instructional Technology.
Now, I know Instructional Technology isn’t Math or Language Arts, but, come on… they are technology. School systems all across the country are embracing technology with great big bear hugs, so what he said surprised me. He said (and I’m paraphrasing),
“I hope we can can help our new director see that we are not just techies.”
He went on to explain that instructional technology folks are often seen only as a source for computer technical support, but that each of the folks in his office have many years of experience teaching in the classroom.
I hope some of you art teachers out there are already feeling what was feeling in that moment…
I HEAR YA MY BROTHER!
I admit that I had never considered that this was the situation for my instructional tech colleagues, but boy is this sentiment familiar! In schools, art teachers are so often viewed as someone who can draw – or paint – or build – or decorate something… someone to go to when some creative skills are needed. They are so rarely valued, first, as educators!
I don’t know if it will make any of you art teachers feel better, but it doesn’t only happen in the schools. You wouldn’t believe how many times members of the fine arts office, the office tasked with providing instructional leadership to the art programs, have been asked to decorate someone’s office, or even to decorate bulletin boards in the office building. (I bet that sounds familiar.)
But art teachers aren’t alone, and I don’t only mean the instructional technology folks. I am certain that our friends in health and physical education, career and technical education, library services, and other areas of our schools suffer similar fates. For all of us, there is a divide between the reality of what we do and the perceptions of others.
I believe the best way to address the challenge is to be what you want them to believe about you. Don’t reinforce the stereotypes. If you want to be viewed as a great teacher, be a great teacher.
I bet you all have stories you could tell that reinforces this, and maybe some of you have stories of times you were shocked to recognized first as a teacher. If you’ve got a great story, share it. I’d love to hear them!