Passion + Pride = Performance

I must admit that I have stolen that phrase from the book, The Leadership Challenge.  They gave credit to Keith Sonberg of Roche for

albino peacock, different yet beautiful

this phrase.  Mr. Sonberg was talking about how to get an organization to maximize its bottom line.  If there isn’t a shared passion and a pride in what one is doing, it will show up in low performance.

So what does this have to do with children and adolescents?  Everything!! I am always hearing that students are not motivated or are apathetic about their work.  I am extremely appalled when I hear it about kindergarteners, since children at that age are always wanting to learn, to explore, and to master their universe.  I also hear about children misbehaving or just refusing to do their work. Just this week, there was a report again about a kindergartener arrested for assault.  To me it sounds like the child was trying very hard to communicate anger, frustration, and confusion, but nobody understood his “language”. This is where teachers and administrators need to ask if they are promoting passion and pride or not.

One fact that is known in the education field, but I  don’t know how many people outside of the field know this, is that there is a very quick turnover of new teachers.  According to the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future (NCTAF), between 16-20% of new teachers leave the field within 5 years of their first classroom assignment. Why does this happen?  And how does this affect our children?  This is where we look back at passion + pride = performance.

A new teacher comes in with a mixture of passion and panic.  Finally on her own with a class.  Sink or swim time.  More schools are providing mentors, but these are frequently other teachers in the school who have their own work to complete and can’t be at the beck and call of a “newbie”.  The new teacher isn’t  sure how to approach the class, whether to be hard-core, or appear as a friend.  Not knowing which of her students have special needs, or how to accommodate them even if she does know.  Parents calling, emailing, or coming in to complain about home work, grades, and who knows what else drains her passion and pride in her skills.  No time for professional development due to budget limits on having substitutes to cover the class leave her feeling lost and unprepared. The principal is not available for mentoring due to the administrative demands that take him/her from the building several times per week.  When in the building, he is dealing with disruptive students or irate parents.  Life becomes a case of repeated reactive responses followed up by Monday Morning quarterbacking from those above her.

By the end of the year, she may or may not want to stay, but if not fired, will stay in order to pay her student loans.  But the passion has faded.  She has no pride in her self or her school.  This then shows up with the performance she demonstrates with the next class. If she is one of the 16-20% to quit, it will cost the district  $10,000 – $15,000 to replace her with all the costs of advertising, interviewing, hiring and training a new teacher.

How are the students doing in this scenario?  They may have come in with passion to learn and a pride in their status as a student at school X.  But as the year goes on and they lose faith in their teacher to actually help them learn and to control the students in the classroom who are getting in the way, they lose their passion and pride, causing their performance to decrease too.  And if  next year they get another “new” teacher, the cycle will repeat itself, causing a more permanent disconnect with the system.  Research is showing, especially in high risk schools, that this is indeed the case.

So how do we bring in the passion + pride, maintaining it so that there is sustained and improving performance?  No surprise it lies in making sure that all involved share the vision of why they are there.  Then providing them with ongoing knowledge and support in order to meet their personal goals for student and self-fulfillment to maintain their passion and pride.  Yes, I know that this requires funds, but if they can save $10,000 to $ 15,000 per turnover teacher, they could apply the funds to listening to what the teachers and administrators say they need for the stresses that drain their passion and pride, finding resources to address the problems.

So teachers and administrators, what are the areas that you would really “want to have professional development on” which would make you feel that you are making  a difference for your students?  What do you need to reignite your passion and pride in your chosen field? Comment here and start the process of being heard.

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