Don’t worry, this isn’t a post about how we have to clean up our planet, drive electric cars and minimize our dependence on oil and petroleum products. I should be honest though, its inspiration was rooted in a radio show about that very topic. I was driving to work and listenting to an argument about whether the strain the oil industry was putting on the environment was sustainable or not. On one side was an oil company firmly convinced that the amount of water they utilized from the river was a reasonably small amount of a huge water source, on the other side an environmentalist arguing that the strain put on the waterway would eventually lead to destruction.

Sustainability has been on my mind a lot lately, as I reflect on my career choice, but also as I look around at the members of our staff. We sure do ask a lot out of teachers, we ask them to teach our kids, model for our kids, care for our kids, protect our kids and when all of that is done we expect them to volunteer a little extra time to coach our teams, direct our plays, run an after-school club or lead a field trip.  With all we ask of our teachers, they step up, they do it and they do more. It is because teachers are willing to give so much that we continue to pile on more and more, ask them to know this, to learn about that, and we can at times lose sight of just how much they do for us.

It is easy to get excited about a new program or initiative, to want to implement new assessment strategies or pedagogical practices, even to offer every teacher-run extracurricular activity imaginable. We need to always consider what we are asking of our teachers and whether or not it is too much. As administrators we should help develop a direction for our buildings, but we need to focus on a reasonable, or sustainable, number of responsibilities we expect of our staffs. Our teachers, along with our education assistants, our secretaries, our librarians and our custodians, they are the river and we must be sure that the demands we place on them are sustainable.

5 thoughts on “Sustainability

  1. Jesse – Excellent post! I think you are exactly right. The demands on ALL educators are immense, and making sure they are sustainable is much easier said than done. I believe creating a supportive and collaborative culture in schools should be a top priority when it comes to making sure educators have what they need to endure. Educators will always have a few “tough” days, but it is the students and the people with whom we work that can help limit those days. Thanks for keeping the point of sustainability on my radar!

  2. On behalf of all teachers-thank you. It’s nice to know that administrators understand how much expected from us. As we take on new initiatives, clubs etc we need to keep asking each other what isn’t making a difference and we need to stop doing it. No more piling on. We need to balance the load and be more efficient in how we support students emotionally & academically.

    Last night I ordered fish & chips as I left the school. When I picked up the order at 6:20 the cashier said, are you a secretary or a teacher. I replied teacher. She sniffed and said “Huh! And they say teachers don’t work after hours.” I accepted that comment as a praise. Here is a member of our community acknowledging my commitment.
    Thanks Jesse for saying what is rarely said, teachers are expected to do too much and they do it because they have to look at those faces every single day.

  3. Pingback: Tweets that mention Sustainability | Opening Doors and Turning On Lights --

  4. Jesse,
    Well said! I serendipitously stopped by after reading a tweet you posted at Sir Ken Robinson. Sustainability of people, ideas, environment etc…is something we should all be talking about. As the former Director of AISI at the U of A I did a study on school improvement leadership and sustainability over 10 years. In fact ‘leadership’ and ‘sustainability’ are inextricable coupled together.

    The greater concern I have today in our profession is where resiliency lies with us all. Resiliency to be able to bounce back from adversity and manage the complexity that is our professional practice. Ultimately, I believe that our resiliency in large measure comes from our relationships with others and their quality. It is hard to sustain anything if we can’t feel that the burden/prize can always be shared through our friendships, networks and ties that bind. The ability to bounce back, sustain and keep positive is boind in the fabric of having strong familial, personal and professional relationships.

    I am providing a feature keynote this morning at the North Central Teachers’ Convention, and your post had led me to some additional ideas. I am going to talk about Dr. Sherry Turkle’s new book entitled ‘Alone Together’. Thanks for your sharing.

    Phil McRae

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