Why do so many American Teachers feel like we often need to duck and cover?
Spring Break has given me a chance to step back and reflect. Now, I can take a breath. My energy level is different now. I can let my guard down.
With that, I've been wondering why are teachers often in defense mode? Why do teachers need defense mechanisms?
I've been in education for over 10 years and have taught both at the PK-12 levels and college level. When I taught at the college level, I didn't feel like I needed to be in defense mode. Maybe because when I taught college I was teaching pre-service teachers and was an adjunct professor. It was a part time gig on Tuesday evenings and was a joy to teach. My husband and I would carpool together and then enjoy half-price pizza night at Giordano's! It was fun!
I got to share with future teachers about teaching and hear their classroom stories too! At the time I also taught elementary so we would share day to day antidotes. Also, my students were not traditional students. They were already working in classrooms as paraprofessionals (i.e. teaching assistants) and had a grant to complete their teaching degrees in Special Education. They were passionate about their work and we had great discussions.
College teaching culture was much different than PK-12. Maybe I felt like I could let my guard down because I wasn't tenure tracked. I just taught because I loved to teach. I didn't have to meet anyone else's requirements. I had no evaluations other than my students, and I liked getting feedback from my students.
At the PK-12 level, most of us bacame teachers because we love working with children. It is a joy to see a-ha moments and to see new perspectives of the world through children's eyes. Once we are in our classroom with the turtle door shut, we are fine. So why do we feel we need to duck and cover? In talking with many educators over the years I know I am not alone in my feelings of being in defense mode. So why are defense mechanisms a part of teacher culture? Does it all come down to evaluations?
I've been at schools where I've had positive administrators who were supportive. Additionally, I've worked at schools that were toxic. However, even outside of school teachers often feel that need to defend the profession to defend our work. Why are American teachers on the defense so much when talking about our careers?
When I worked as a teacher-in-residences/research assistant on a large research study funded by the National Institute of Health, we did classroom observations and training 2nd grade teachers. At first, you could tell many of the teachers were apprehensive about having someone in their classroom taking notes on their teaching and students' responses. Then when I let the teachers know that I am a teacher too, they began to let their guard down. Even their posture changed.
I "got" that teachers are territorial, because I am territorial too. I respected their space. I respected their turtle shell. So why are teachers territorial? Teachers are territorial and I think that is a part of our defense mode. The duck and cover, so to speak, we don't want anyone else near our turtle shell. Why are defense modes a part of American Teacher Culture?
And is Duck and Cover Teaching unique to American Teaching Culture?
It would be interesting to look at teaching culture across the world. I was fortunate to have a couple snap shots along the way. In 2005, I traveled abroad and studied teaching in two other countries England and Spain and it seemed like a much different culture with regard to teaching culture. Their schools seemed more transparent, more open, more airy, more breathable. But then I was looking from the outside in.
Image Reference: Bert the Turtle from the 1951 film Duck and Cover by the Office of Civil Defense and the National Education Association