Be the change, teachers

Could We Please Stop Making Each Other Feel Bad?

image from icanread

Yesterday I received the news that I am among 5 educators nominated for Elementary Teacher of the Year by the Academy of Education Arts and Sciences, otherwise known as the Bammy Awards.  Do you know who I told?  My mom and my husband.  I didn’t go next door to tell my teammates, I didn’t tweet it out until later when others had congratulated me.  I only told my principal because I may take a day off to go to the ceremony.  I certainly did not post it to Facebook.  This huge moment in my short teaching life was not something I felt comfortable sharing with others because I was afraid that they may get upset.  I was afraid of the negative reactions I was sure to get by telling others.

After witnessing the usual banter back and forth on Twitter about how we shouldn’t have awards for teachers or anyone within education because there are no winners, we are all winners, and no one should feel like they deserve recognition because it goes against what we stand for as educators, I felt completely deflated.  We are so good at making each other feel bad.  We are so good at feeling that our philosophy for education and educators should encompass everyone else.  We are so good at taking moments that should be celebrated and turning them into moments of shame.  

I grew up in a society marked by “Janteloven” which in essence means you are no better than anyone else.  That you should never stick your head above the crowd or promote yourself.  It squelched much creativity within my country, it squelched individualism, and pride in what people accomplished.  You never dared tell others when you were recognized.  Little did I know how similar the North American education society is to Danish society.  How dare we be excited when we are recognized?   How dare we tell others because if we tell others it must mean that we think we are better than them!

If I cannot stand up and be proud that the Global Read Aloud is getting recognition (because that is what led to my nomination) than what have we become?  We have become no better than all of the politicians who swear we are the root of all of the problems in education.  We are no better than the journalists that love sensationalizing whenever a teacher messes up.  We are no better than the commentators who tell us to quit our whining and get a real job.  We are no better than the teachers that sit in the teachers lounge and bash anyone who tries something new.  If we continue to make each other feel bad whenever we should be celebrating we are no better than the people we fight.

There will never be enough awards to hand out to all of those that should get an award.  There will never be enough recognition to give to everyone, but if we squelch the movements that are springing up to turn the tide of teacher bashing, then we are giving those who hate us a helping hand.  There are many brilliant people in education, this is not about winning or losing, but instead  finally saying that there are many people out there who do incredible things every day with what they have been giving.  We should stand up and cheer every time someone gets recognized within the education community , not chastise them or make them feel as traitors to our mission.  We are not fighting each other, we are fighting for our children.  And I for one will applaud anyone ho gets any kind of positive recognition 

26 thoughts on “Could We Please Stop Making Each Other Feel Bad?”

  1. I suspect most people that are anti-award are actually jealous of other's recognition. (Of course I don't mean everyone, some have a coherent argument.) I just don't think it is realistic to believe that recognition should not be given. Let's face it, the rich and powerful have plenty of recognition simply by being rich and powerful, why not counter that with recognizing others who don't have their luck or good fortune?Personally, I think we should celebrate each opportunity to recognize others. When one of us wins, the whole education community wins. This isn't a zero sum proposition. 🙂

  2. Well stated Pernille. Anytime educators can get some positive feedback for the accomplishments they achieve on behalf of students is time and energy well spent. Your specific efforts are definitely recognition-worthy.

  3. This is a lesson I try to teach to my students as well. Be happy when good things happen to other people!By the way, I'm happy for you! 🙂

  4. Well stated. One of my favorite quotes is "Climb the mountain so you can see the world, not so the world can see you." This matters to me. I want to honor those who are doing great work without seeking approval or acceptance. I also want to honor those who think "win-win". I can honor your recognition as representative of many teachers while also respecting you as an individual. FWIW, I find the practice of honoring individual students with "awards" as being more egregious and harmful.

  5. Hey Pernille, going to give you a little nudge here (which I am sure comes as no surprise). Many of the finalist have got the attention and recognition in social media because they have challenged and questioned many processes and ideas in education. Whether it be homework, rewards, punishments, worksheets, desks in rows, certain programs, or even merit pay – many of us, including both you and me, have openly challenged the ideas and people using/embracing them.It is interesting that when someone challenges an idea like the Bammys, people take it as disrespecting the profession and being too negative. Yet, when we challenge other ideas in the system that often have good intents (student awards ceremonies, PBIS programs, etc) we are recognized for this.For me, I choose to honour and recognize people like you by taking the time to promote and challenge their ideas. It is about spending time sharing the work of others and using this to change what we do to better teach and honour our kids. I don't think I am being negative by challenging the idea of the Bammys (and the glitz and glam that comes with it) just like I don't think I am being negative challenging the ideas of merit pay for teachers and honour rolls/awards ceremonies for students. I have been critical of the Bammys, Klout scores and Edublog awards from day 1 – the fact that I have spent enough time sharing on social media that I have made the Bammys finalist list gives me a different platform to state my criticisms as nobody can state that I am whining or jealous that I am not on the list.Social media has always allowed us to be respectfully critical with each other – this is causes us to reflect and drive education forward.Keep doing what you do – the global read aloud is just one of the wonderful ideas that you have embraced that have helped so many others. That is where the true honour lies.

  6. Hi Chris,I appreciate your long and thoughtful comment but I do think you view it very negatively (not disrespectfully though). You and I have discussed this at length on different occasions and while I am anti-awards in the classroom due to no student choice, I see it quite differently for adults. When adults are recognized as change makers it means those ideas can spread. Sure many of the people being recognized by the Bammys are people you and I know or have heard of but that is also because of the circles we communicate with. If I showed the list to my team mates they would not know any of them nor their ideas. The Bammys are trying to get ideas to spread, to throw some positivity our way, and I don't see that as harmful. It seems ludicrous to say that we should not recognize anyone if everyone can get recognition.

  7. Thanks – I think we should recognize people but the Bammys are a way to recognize people who get recognized already. As you said, most people outside of social media would not know the stories and I would challenge that after the Bammys, people outside of social media still will not know the stories.Just because I am opposed to awards does not mean I am opposed to recognition. In fact, it is quite the opposite. I work hard to honour and recognize people like you through stories that are in our school, in our community and globally through social media.I have often heard the need for the Bammys is that is finally something positive instead of the negativity that is education and this event will cause more positive stories to be shared. While I agree with the intent, the people who are negative around education will not be at the Bammys nor will they care about the Bammys. SO I wonder if positive stories can be shared in a way that is more inclusive and more regular like edcamps and various educator/community driven conferences. It doesn't have to be an either/or but I personally question the reason and need for the Bammys as from the outside , it doesn't seem to add up.To me, your post wasn't about the Bammys but more about challenging something in which we do not agree with. I do my best not to personally attack (although I know I have made this mistake in the past) but to respectfully challenge. Your post made it seem like you are saying this is a bad thing when it comes to something like the Bammys. People can disagree about a process or and idea – the key is to not personalize it, whether you are challenging it or promoting it. If it becomes personal, then that shows another problem with this as it becomes about the individuals rather than education as a whole.I appreciate you taking the time to respond. I know we are on different sides of this and I appreciate the opportunity to engage in respectful dialogue.

  8. Love you Chris. You're consistent! Though I appreciate your perspective, what's overlooked is that educators are not operating in a vacuum. As you know, there is a vast national conversation going on across the nation around the competence of educators. The resulting narrative that has emerged is impacting education and educators in a myriad of ways and driving many great educators from the field. Indeed, as published on the Bammy Awards site:Perhaps the greatest threat facing all educators today is the relentless national criticism of America's public schools. The national narrative that is driving the negative public perception of education is leading to a decrease in public confidence and calls for reduced financial support. Today, educators face intense scrutiny and criticism, while what is right in American education is largely ignored.Coming from a family of educators, I've seen at a very personal level the profound damage caused by the prevailing negative narrative around educators. Neither quiet diligence nor suffering in quiet desperation has altered this pubic narrative.Further consider that despite the valiant efforts of some seven million teachers, two national teacher's unions, scores of education associations and millions of other education professionals, para-professionals and advocates the negative narrative prevails? Einstein said it best, doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result…you know the rest.There is a another form of pedagogy that is rarely discussed in education circles. It's called "public pedagogy." It's the science of how the public is educated. Public pedagogy scholars tell us that popular culture is a dynamic classroom with its own curriculum and methodologies. The Bammy Awards may seem like a frivolous exercise in mindless glamor, but in fact , the approach rests on a large body of science and scholarship about the other "public education" system. I encourage you to look at the literature and see whether it suggests that it may be time to reboot your thinking on this issue. Separately, I'm curious to know whether you will accept the Bammy Award should you be selected to receive the honor.– It's a curious dilemma.

  9. Errol – I was hoping this conversation was just going to be about respectfully challenging and being consistent in our views but I know the Bammys gets people going :-)I agree the narrative needs to change, especially in the US. Unfortunately, I think the Bammys, with their name attached to marketing BAM radio network, along with the glitz and glamour of the event rubs me and many others the wrong way as this is kind of the opposite way we lead and teach. My question around awards ceremonies in schools is always "is this the best we can do?" and "are they necessary?". These are the same questions I ask of the Bammys and Edublog Awards. I will not be attending the Bammys. I would assume because I am Canadian and this is about promoting US education… and I disagree with the event, it would be an interesting decision if the panel selected me.I thought about asking my name to be removed but instead I think this gives me an opportunity to state my concerns about awards and events like this without being labeled a sore loser.I would not accept this award as it does not align with my beliefs. The challenge would be to do this in a way that does not personally attack anybody attached to the Bammys. I realize this may remove me from the contest (sorry, can't think of a better word) and I am ok with this. I have spent a few years developing my beliefs around honour, recognition, and motivation and I would say that accepting the award would go agains my value system and I just could not do this.As I said on Twitter, I think we want the same thing and the challenge is doing this in a way that shares the stories and spreads the positives without alienating. Thanks for taking the time to engage.

  10. I do love this dialogue even if the fences will never be crossed. Just one question to you Chris. If a teacher from your school was nominated for an award would you support them? What if your school was up for an award?

  11. Hey Pernille – great questions. We were invited to attend an honouring ceremony for our school for an increase in test scores and we declined. I think we need to celebrate together when we achieve but with the conversations we have around our staff, I would have a hard time believing that our school would approve of embracing a school award. Having said this, if I went to a new school and we were given an award and the staff embraced it, I would state my concerns but also support the staff rather than supporting the award. We had an Aboriginal organization come to our school to include us in a documentary about community relationshops – they selected us over others but there was no award, just the story. This is what I love – sharing the stories.If a teacher was nominated, I would not promote any "vote for me" nor would I publicly congratulate. I would privately give my feedback and honour in their own way. I am very transparent in my views so our staff knows my thoughts on individual awards. If the teacher wanted to attend, I would support as I don't want to personally attack anyone and each person has a right to their views.Again, I try to highlight the awesome work of our staff in my blog and on Twitter. Our decision to change our year end ceremony is a perfect example of how a blog post and conversations can honour a school's efforts and create a ripple effect beyond our little community.

  12. Two Thoughts ChrisI respect that you've spent decades developing your position on awards. I trust that as an educator dedicated to life-long learning (and modeling this for your students) that you remain open to new information and to updating your position accordingly. I assume you will examine the literature on "public pedagogy" and get an understanding of why "glitz and glamor" may be precisely what is needed to shift the public narrative. Would love to hear your thought once informed by the research.Two, with all due respect, the consideration about the Bammys being tied to BAM Radio Network is simply misguided. It would be comparable to saying that we shouldn't support edchats or Google Hangouts with educators because they promote Twitter and Google. Or that educators should reject the Discovery Educator Network, (The largest educator social network in the nation) because it's owned by Discovery Communications, a multi-billion dollar public company. The question should be, are these platforms benefiting educators. Finally, respectful exchange of ideas is what BAM Radio Network is all about. Educators have discussed super sensitive topics from gay men in early childhood settings, to the politics of school leadership, candidly, yet respectfully. Indeed, it's my love of thoughtful discussions on the issues that matter that gives rise to this continued exchange. The bottom line is, notwithstanding how others respond, you can rest assured that our exchanges will be civil and thoughtful even when I have to tell you that you're wrong 🙂 That's a joke Chris… I say that's a joke!

  13. Errol – I do not have concerns with the BAM radio network as I have listend to many programs that have challenged my thinking. My point was that there is a marketing motive that we need to be aware of.As you know, for pretty much every choice we make, we can find research that supports it. I respect that much thought has gone into this.If this was easy and one in which all research pointed to one way, then we would all be doing the same thing and we would all be right :-)… but we know this is not black/white and the key is to provide a platform for thoughtful discussion on topics. So thank you to Pernille for providing this.Anyways, someone once said to me – put your efforts into what really matters.. and today, it is my students so thank you for the respectful dialogue. We can agree to disagree and know that we are both passionate, respectful people that want to see educators honoured for the work they do.

  14. "As human beings, our job in life is to help people realize how rare and valuable each one of us really is, that each of us has something that no one else has – or ever will have – something inside that is unique to all time. It is our job to encourage each other to discover that uniqueness and to provide ways of developing its expression." -Fred Rogers.Pernille, congratulations on your award. Of all of the people I follow on Twitter and read their educational musings, you are one of the most inspirational. You are unique to all time and deserve the recognition that has been awarded to you. Infer the motive behind people's words, and know you are respected by many.

  15. Hey Pernille – I was thinking about asking this earlier but got sidetracked. I am wondering when you changed your views on this. I was looking at a post from 2010 "I'm a Loser" about when you were nominated for Edublogs but did not win. You saw the problems with this and were critical of the process but now with the Bammys you are concerned when people question it as being too negative.Was there a moment when it changed or did it change over time? More importantly, why did your views change?

  16. Hi Chris, Great question, I think my view point on awards for adults changes depending on the situation. I think awards and recognition are a messy emotional thing but in the end many of us strive for someone to recognize us in some way. The Edublog awards are still very messy for me because of the nomination process and then the voting that takes place to determine the winner. I wonder ho w much of it becomes "your friends' voting for you because you asked rather than people that don't know you and are voting for you based on your ideas. However, as far as teacher recognition a watershed moment for me was when I was nominated for the most innovative educator 2 years ago and how incredibly hurt I was by some people's comments. My principal at the time would not even share it with staff because he was worried how it would turn on me and there was a lot of negativity on the internet as well. To go through a moment like that which should have made me very proud but instead made me cry made me think if how I view others when they are recognized and made me realize how much of my own resentment to recognition and awards came from envy of not being the one recognized. I then realized that yes it sucks not to be recognized, but it sucks even more for people to say you shouldn't be.So now I am all about being happy for people. And that includes Edublogs, Bammys etc. I guess I am just focused more on what happens in my classroom and trying to spread positivity.

  17. I can totally relate. I am so glad I came across this post. When I was nominated and I found out that I should have people write on my Bammy, I quickly “ducked in the corner”. Why would I want to put myself out there asking people to write positive things about me on the internet for them to only turn behind my back to say that I was full of myself. This is what I thought. One day in class I had my Smartboard on and forgot that one of the tabs on Internet Explorer was on the Bammy website. My 8th grade students immediately starting asking about it (so nosey 🙂 ) and when I finally came around to explain what it was, that was it… a lot of them (that night) went on my and starting writing, then parents got involved. I was like you and only told my husband and parents. I did tell my head as well, which was good and bad. The bad thing is that she sent out a group email. Some people congratulated me but my own 8th grade team mates said nothing. Oh well, now I’m keeping it on the DL. It may come up when I go to DC, we’ll see. Great post.

  18. Very nice! We have a relatively new principal in our high school who started weekly “kudos”, where staff can publicly recognize one another for professional good deeds large and small. I embraced the idea, and made a point to recognize at least one person each week who had made a positive impact on my professional life. I was a bit deflated by a colleague who told me that my kudos were essentially meaningless because I gave so many. I still wonder why, but I still give kudos when deserved! 🙂

    1. And I think you should, I don’t think kudos or praise should be limited to selected times to make it feel special. If we see something great why not tell that person or people? Create a culture of thanks rather than keep it to such few moments so those people really feel special because no one else got praise.

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