I received my Teachers Union* magazine today, made a face of disgust, and promptly deposited it in the recycling. My fiancée raised an eyebrow, but didn’t inquire. Unsolicited, I explained that though I like to be informed about issues in education, it’s depressing to read my Union magazine. Once, a roommate of mine saw that it arrived and told me that my Bitter Teachers’ Quarterly had arrived. She called it this because there is usually a picture on the front cover of either a) Angry teachers picketing for a living wage/health insurance/school supplies, or b) Haggard-looking teacher leaning over a quasi-interested student. And the articles pretty much follow the cover themes, every month.
I’m all for unions and fighting for social justice, but I wish BTQ would expand their coverage. I don’t mean they need to turn into Teachers Unions for the Soul, but throw us a positive bone once in a while! Maybe they could integrate stories of union victories and how to advocate within your own district, positive policy changes, or inspirational stories of working within a less than perfect system. And if someone made me Editor, I would promise to never, ever, use the phrase “No Child Left Behind” or “Highly Qualified Teacher” ever again. Ever.
It’s a hazard in education (especially urban education) to fall into telling only the horror stories, injustices, and tribulations of our profession. I am guilty too. It is the fodder for teachers’ lounge conversations around the country, psychologist staff meetings, and sometimes my very own dinner table. It usually starts with “You are not going to believe that [insert injustice] happened at school today.” Rare are the days that I get together with my psychologist colleagues and compare notes about what is working well in our respective schools. It is far more juicy to tell the tales of our job in a Fox Reality Show fashion. **
Part of the problem is the nature of our jobs. We help determine when the students are failing enough to require special education services. Our job is largely to find disabilities, processing deficits, emotional problems, developmental and social problems, and areas of academic weakness to determine that general education is not going to cut it. Though I try to integrate student strengths in my assessment reports, usually they are in one paragraph or peppered in my report as areas of “relative strengths.” One might call me Debbie Downer, Ph.D.
Fortunately, there is a movement toward Positive Psychology. The entire NASP conference this year is on Resilience—how students succeed in the face of adversity. It’s a great step in the right direction.
*In my district, Psychologists are in the Teacher’s Union. We aren’t cool enough to have our very own union.
**I could produce the first season of When Middle Schools Go Wild!