When I first began teaching I was very naive. I thought that everyone would value music education at the same level I did, and I chose every battle that came my way in defending this belief. I made enemies three times faster than I made friends, although the friends I did make definitely made dealing with the enemies more bearable. It was clear that while I had great knowledge concerning music and music instruction, my ignorance concerning politics and dealing with people got in the way of me performing my duties effectively.
The skills involved in solving the ever changing people puzzle of education are not taught in undergraduate coursework, nor are they encouraged in the first years of teaching. In most states a teacher can be fired in their first year for any reason and the administrator or supervisor doesn’t have to tell them why. After four years of academic coursework, a (in my opinion) piddly internship which the student has to pay to take as course hours, and an interview for a job to work with a large group of strangers with whom they may or may not be compatible, they then have to navigate their first year of employment under constant fear that if they make one false step, if their principal doesn’t “like” them, if a coworker complains about them, they could be fired and they would never know why. Honestly I would not be surprised if these firings had more to do with relationships among colleagues and communities and less to do with whether the new teacher knew how to teach.
As I step off my soap box, I am reminded that there was no one to help me navigate that part of the transition. I learned through the emotionally costly trial and error process. Despite the emotional and professional costs and mishaps along the way I became adept at recognizing certain personalities and eventually I also became adept at dealing with them. Every school is a people puzzle, and if you enjoy or are at least good at puzzles, changing your behavior to be a part of the puzzle isn’t as difficult as it sounds.
This week I will be exploring five of the most prominent personalities within a school and how to best deal with interaction with them. In addition to that I’ll also be explaining how to make them work for you if you choose to be more active or proactive.