"To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary.
To one without faith, no explanation is possible."
-St. Thomas Aquinas
Yesterday an old blog post of mine: Someone to Carry you seemed to strike a rather exposed nerve with a Kindergarten teacher. I went to lunch and returned to 30+ twitter notifications about the post from colleagues that I respect as well as from this individual who happened to take issue with the post. I am a huge supporter of debate and discourse when it is intelligent, based on fact, and has a modicum of decorum which purports mutual respect between parties with dichotomous views. Yet what I returned to (after my lunch) was blatant slanderous statements toward myself based on nothing more than conjecture.
Had this been any random internet troll, I could probably look the other way and move on, however this person is a teacher. Not only is she a teacher, but she is a "connected educator" and founder of a wonderful group of early childhood education teachers who get together and have their own #kinderchat. Furthermore, she's also a Catholic school teacher. All of these facts regarding someone who is an educational leader means that my expectations for her digital footprint and behavior are high.
Perhaps that is my mistake, after all even the best person in the world is still just a person. I'm rather sad to say that my first experience with a connected educator of this caliber left much to be desired. Apparently Heidi Enderchat (@) seems to have lost some of the very Catholic values I would expect from a Catholic school teacher.
When I returned from my very much needed lunch, I found that she had called my post condescending. Okay, I can handle that. It wasn't meant to be condescending but to each his or her own. What troubled me more was that rather than modeling for other connected educators and students around the world what good practice would be, she jumped to wildly slanderous conclusions about me on a personal level.
The large cause of this being that the post I wrote was against teachers who leave the profession and write incendiary resignation letters on their way out. These teachers basically douse the ship with gasoline light a match and drop it on the deck as the leave their colleagues to try to put out the fire they have caused while simultaneously working to fix the issues that were already present. It adds little to the dialogue of helping to fix the problems in education.
Apparently, Heidi took issue with the fact that I am no longer a school administrator and therefore I embody the very thing I wrote about (in her minds eye). What she failed to realize, even after repeated statements to inform her, is that I did not quit the profession. Not only that, but I did not quit and write a letter about how bad the school system is and how good teachers are forced to leave the profession. As a matter of fact, I left a position at my school (without writing hateful letters) and I went to work for a corporation (something that her comments indicate is distasteful).
But here is the reality... When I was a teacher, I could help roughly 30 students a year... after 10 years I will have helped approximately 300 students. I have always wanted to help the most students I possibly can. Therefore, I became an administrator. As an administrator within 10 years I could help on average 3000 students or more per year. In my current role at a startup company that believes in childhood education I can help tens of thousands of students worldwide in the course of ten years. I'd like to be clear, I did not leave the profession of education, I didn't quit, I didn't write a letter saying how bad education was... I think education has a lot of work that needs to be done with it but its still pretty good compared to some other areas in the world.
The direct statements from Heidi levied at me with absolutely no proof or even asking me what happened were:
"Quitting yourself (me) out of ambition is pretty arrogant."
I asked where I ever said I quit out of ambition and her rather snide response was:
"Maybe it was an inability then? I don't know, I just know you quit."
- Wow. Really, so without ever asking me about the situation or fully comprehending what I do now in the field of education I was called either arrogant and ambitious or I was labeled by her as having an inability to be a school administrator. The only true statement she made was that she "didn't know". I was a rather successful school administrator. I started and founded the Cathedral school at the heart of our diocese under the direct leadership of the Bishop. It saddens me that Heidi, a Catholic school teacher at Stuart Country Day School of the Sacred Heart (@),would treat another human (let alone another Catholic educator) with such disrespect, simply for having a difference of opinion. I honestly worry for the students in her class who are just forming their views of the world. If they learn anything from modeling or watching what adults do around them, they may learn that if you disagree with someone... attack them personally. How sad.
It was then that I found out that this connected educator had a rather myopic and 19th-20th century view of what it means to be a teacher. She blatantly tweeted at me:
"Sorry, working for a corporation is not a teacher. You aren't dealing w the stresses of kids day in, out."
- Really? In order to be a teacher one must deal with the "stresses" of kids day in and out? Don't get me wrong, I've had stressful days with my students but I would never define my role as a teacher as being based upon having stress with kids. As a matter of fact, very few days were stressful when I was in the classroom. I enjoyed my experiences. In her interview for Connectededucators.org it becomes apparent that she may be feeling the stress of the kids and the weight of her profession. The interview is peppered with remarks, such as:
"by the end of the day my energy is generally running below zero!... I would say that teachers, as exhausted and stretched as we are... The frustrations, loneliness, and isolation of a teacher are real things."
She may have called me arrogant, condescending, ambitious, possessing an inability to be a teacher, a quitter (all of these things untrue once facts are looked upon) But her own statements seem to highlight a teacher who is very much frustrated, lonely, isolated, tired, exhausted, etc. These conclusions I come to are based on her own words and not, as she unceremoniously used upon me, upon assumptions. I have afforded her the courtesy of actually checking my facts and having evidence to support them.
When a noted education author refuted her statement that I quit by saying "He didn't quit, you're assuming." there was a rather childish response and need to be right when she said "Is he doing it now? No. That's quitting, Leaving. Moving on. Doing something else. Not doing it. Stopped. QUIT."
I personally think its a vocabulary issue on the definition of quitting and some connotative differences between quitting, resigning, and moving to a new position with the same field or profession. I don't think I'll ever be able to explain to her how moving to a new position where I develop lessons for tens of thousands of students in various methodologies and with an eye toward teacher assessment, parent use, and student engagement is still very much teaching. In the 21st century Teaching is so much more than the old image of the schoolmarm in the classroom at the podium lecturing to students. Teachers come in all shapes and sizes. A very small informal survey I conducted returned 100% results that a teacher did not in fact have to have the stress of kids or a classroom to be considered a teacher.
Again, had this been an average user or teacher I would have probably paid this little attention. However this is a person who purports to be a connected educator, running international edchats for teachers... she is a leader who should be influencing educators for the positive. We all get tired from time to time. We all get frustrated and have stress with our students. But we shouldn't let that overwhelm common sense and we certainly shouldn't openly lay slanderous statements against others.
To state that I quit: False.
To state that I left for ambition: False.
To state that I a have an inability to be in the classroom: False.
To state that I am not a teacher: False.
For the record, I moved to a new position, one that has the potential to help tens of thousands of students on a global level. I did not quit. Also upon my change in position, I refused to write an incendiary letter and send it to Huffington post or any other public newspaper. Why? Because I stand by my original post (Someone to Carry You) I will not light a match and watch the ship burn as I move on to continue helping students. I believe in education. We are doing great things. And it is true... I still have little respect for those who leave and write these letters to the paper. I no longer consider them colleagues as they have truly left the profession and done so in a manner that is poor in taste and practice and actually does more harm to those who remain in education than it should.
Bullies exist in all ages and throughout all professions. They exist in the classroom and they exist in cyberspace among our own peers. There is a moral obligation as an educational leader and as a Catholic school teacher to make sure your statements are true before launching accusations without any proof. I hold these leaders to a higher standard than I probably should. However, if she is a connected educator(as she claims to be)... I think her connection might be a little broken.
What can we take away from this encounter? That is the question I ask myself whenever something like this happens. After all, great teachers are often lifelong learners. For me, it would be, check your facts and don't assume anything. Take the time to get to know the person you disagree with. I'm sure there are many more lessons throughout.
What strikes me most is the statement that in order to be a teacher you have to have the "stress" of kids day in and out. I wholeheartedly disagree. It seems some of my other professional colleagues also disagree with that statement.
I'm interested to know... what are your thoughts on this? Does one have to have the stress of kids to be considered a teacher? Is this just one person's limited view of education and teaching? Please share your thoughts.
Also, if you decide to Quit (genuinely quit) teaching... please don't set our ship on fire and write one of those letters saying how horrible education is.... we get it... you weren't happy... but you left and did little to help solve the problem. I'm still working on the problems... Together we journey and together we will make wonderful things happen for our students and colleagues.