Sunday, May 10, 2015

The Red Flag Rant

“Why, oh, why do teachers compete against one another?” -- that’s a question I find myself grappling with time and again.

You know what I am talking about, as you’ve probably seen these behaviors before: 
  • people who chose teaching as a career keeping their knowledge to themselves when it comes to helping their colleagues; 
  • lifelong learners acting arrogantly as if they knew it all; 
  • language professionals offending colleagues as if that could be a valid argument in a debate; 
  • linguistics majors judging others based on a typo, a slip of the tongue or the dialect used.

To be honest, I don’t see much to compete for. Even for those who see education as a business, it is hardly cut-throat: there is room for everybody. And if it’s a special promotion or a different opportunity people are going for, I don’t see how viciously attacking peers would get them what they want.

“You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.”

The fellow teachers I have seen be promoted were good teachers, of course, but they were also so passionate about work and sharing that they inspired others. It’s only logical: who would you select to be a teacher trainer or mentor in your institution? Who would you hire to publish material and then speak on behalf of your publishing house to try and sell it to other teachers?

With the exception of the reluctance to share, honestly I don’t see how those behaviors could be compatible with an English language teaching career. And even then the only reason I understand one’s keeping to oneself is because some teacher lounges are so hostile that a sharer can be seen as a nuisance. Also, sharing may require time, which is a resource many (can I say most?) teachers lack. Still, most of the bullet points I listed could even be grounds for dismissal. Why would a school want to be associated with a professional who shows complete disregard for colleagues?

Of course everybody slips here and there, and I’m far from saying I’m beyond that sort of petty behavior. We must keep a watchful eye on ourselves to prevent such slips. However, when the exception becomes the rule and the educator can’t communicate his or her opinions without offending others, red flags should be raised. And waved. And maybe that red flag should turn into a red penalty card.