Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Office Politics

politics In Ellen: Overwhelmed from CEC Blog, the author states,

“I’m drained by the politics. Not petty lunchroom stuff, but top-down stuff. I’m frustrated by what I perceive to be a lack of accountability for teachers who aren’t making things work and a lack of support for teachers who are. It’s difficult for me to be an advocate for my students when I feel that my school’s practices are sometimes not in their best interests.”

I hear this so often from many young teachers and it makes me sad. I think this feeling of helplessness causes many new teachers to pack it in too early. This feeling of office politics can be overwhelming and cause new teachers to feel powerless.

I know this is no excuse but over the past thirty years, I have had many different jobs and you will face these office politics, no matter what job you have. It doesn’t matter if you are a salesclerk, or an entertainer, or a construction worker. If you thought teaching was any different, you were wrong. Maybe Surviving Office Politics is a course that we need to teach in Teacher Prep courses because it would be of practical use.

I had one new teacher ask me about how I survived office politics and it made me think of the things I did. Maybe if I share it with you, you will find something you need in order to cope with what is going on around you.

1. Remember not to take the politics personally. I have felt that I was moved to different schools unfairly for different reasons and felt a lot of bitterness and resentment. I had to learn that these changes were not usually against me personally. Later, I learned that the change actually turned out to benefit me and without the change, my growth as a teacher would not have happened.

2. Be willing to stand up for what is right. I needed to think about how my actions would affect me in the long run; the big picture. Was I willing to sacrifice what I’ve accomplished to stand up for my beliefs?

3. Remember that I do not have the big picture. Many times the administration has to make decisions that benefit the school as a whole even though it might not be to my advantage. Sometimes decisions have to be made that affect the most people and not just the ones that I teach.

4. Open the lines of communication with my administration. If I feel that the school practices are not in the best interest of my students, I need to let my administration know how negatively this can affect the school in the future. I need to be loyal to my employer and I can do this by showing how acting in the best interest of my students is in fact what is in the best interest of the school.

5. I need to stop dwelling on the negative politics and letting it become the central focus of my thoughts. As long as I am doing this, there will not be any room for positive thinking which will enable me to cope with the way things are.

6. I need to be able to accept that what I believe in may not be the only way to solve a problem. I need to be open to other suggestions and show a willingness to try other options.

7. If I’m not happy with the way things are, I need to think about ways to change it. Then I need to be willing to approach those in power with my suggestions. If I’m not willing to be part of the solution, I need to stop whining about the way things are.

8. I cannot expect the school to develop a support system for me. I need to do it on my own. I need to make time to do this. I can find colleagues who I work with, either in my own school, or my own district. Or I can find people online for support. I need to actively do this for myself.

9. Remember the ultimate reason I became a teacher – to make a difference in a child’s life. When all else fails, I need to ask myself if I am achieving my goal. If I am, then I know that I’m doing the best I can and that I shouldn’t beat myself over the way things are.

How do you deal with the politics where you are? Do you have any other suggestions with coping with these? Do you disagree with any that I have given? If so, please explain why.

Posted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).

Original image: 'That went down well......' by: Karen Brazier


Anonymous said...

"I can find people online for support. I need to actively do this for myself."

I think it is also helpful to create a support system that is more immediate and less anonymous than a cyber community or other online resource. I am a first-year teacher and am still in communication with my mentor teachers, former professors, and my classmates from my MAT cohort.

My peers from the MAT cohort, the lucky few who found jobs, are around teaching around the globe and are encountering and coping with/solving similar problems to issues I face in my own classroom and professional community. I know that I can count on them to sympathize and empathize with situations I am confronted with, as well as offer first-hand accounts of how they have managed to deal with their own school-wide issues.

I felt that I should emphasize the importance of real-time conversations, as they often offer more immediate and personalized responses than any advice offered in an online social/professional forum.

Oliver McPhee said...

This is a great post - I like the way you've split it up so its easy to follow.

I found this cool little model on office politics that i thought you maybe interested in...

How to win at Office Politics