I wrote the word down several times when I was thinking about qualities of teachers in democratic schools. The worst people you can have involved in your school project are people whose heads are so big they get stuck in the door as they try to leave the building.
Now this little post is not about the self-righteous, self-serving people who can only be involved in your school if it is cool enough to make them look good. It is not about the creepy people who want to come across as wise, or as thought-leaders, or as gurus. In short, it is not about the bigheads and the time-wasters.
But it is fun to include them because they are so ridiculous. Democratic education is so tiny that it is hard to believe anyone would get their jollies out of being a demed hero. Running a decent school that puts the kids first, protects them as much as possible from all the government bullshit they would be wading around in at the state school, and gives them the opportunity to enjoy their childhood and experience freedom is not…
a hero project!
You’ve got to develop a good nose for this, or the ground is going to get sticky underfoot.
When you are looking for people to work with at your school, it might be a good idea to pull them out on this issue because just getting the most basic jobs done in a school requires collaboration. That might mean putting aside your vanity and getting along with the mundane task of delivering a decent lesson. It might mean helping a new teacher by listening and not giving advice. It might mean any one of the following 7 qualities of successful collaboration that I have stolen from the internet.
7 qualities of successful collaboration
- Be Generous: teachers should be generous by nature. After all they give up their time to other people’s kids and don’t get paid very well for it.
- Be Appreciative: yup. If you can go up to someone and say, “You know, what you did was cool!” without coming across as smarmy and false, you’ve got the appreciative gig down. You know you haven’t got it down when you shuffle off muttering, “The bastard! She got more attention than me again. When will it be my turn to win?”
- Avoid the Big Question: now I have to confess that my source says someone who seeks out the bigger questions is a good collaborator, but I beg to differ. Jesus, I want to collaborate with someone who can help me sort out the shelves in my classroom, not someone who wants to talk about the philosophy of democratic education.
- Listen: we all know this is a toughie. If the extent of your listening is a finger-tapping wait for the cue that will allow you to insert your own monologue into the conversation, then you are not good at this. Go lecture somewhere. Teaching is not for you. Really. You can test how good you are at listening by asking yourself how much you remember from the last five conversations you had. If what you remember is what you said, not what the other person said, then you aren’t listening. Try it. I dare you.
- Trustworthy: as in, I trust you, you trust me, and we have a funky little team going on. On the other hand, if you are suspicious of me, then I will not trust you, and we will have a different kind of funk. This is a management issue. If you want to instill a culture of trust, you have to trust your staff and they have to trust you. The more you make the culture like the Borgias, with backroom deals and secret conferences, the more you will eat away the foundations of trust in your school so be…
- Open: as in, there it is on the table. You don’t hold something back to do a late deal and get a better bargain for yourself. The policies and procedures are out there for everyone. There are no exceptions. Everyone pulls along as a team.
- Private: open and private are not contradictory. Have a bit of self-respect and keep your private life to yourself. When I say be open, I mean professionally open. A gushing primadonna is not an example of openness but an embarrassing, unprofessional egomaniac.
So, there I am, back with the egomaniac.