Sunday, 11 March 2012

Where do I go?

A former student posted this on facebook with the comment that this is something i could have used in my teaching with her class. No matter what one thinks of the artist or the song, this is one great compliment to receive as a teacher. Thank you, JNM.

Saturday, 3 March 2012

The feeling organisation

Until recently, i had the impression that feelings were a kind of taboo in certain contexts of our educational organisations. They probably still are in some cultures or they are mediated by other means of expression.

It was naive to assume that 'professionalism' should exclude feelings and emotions in any human context. In my defense, i was culturally self-conscious and trying to stay on a kind of neutral ground, an emotional Switzerland kind of thing, while i kept feeling more and more frustrated. I was also in denial and contradicted myself when i pondered or discussed issues such as morale and job satisfaction. There is simply no way to explore the depth of these issues in clinical terms of hard science. And yet, some of these aspects of our life seem to observe laws that would appear almost natural in their predictions and results.

I have been disabused of these self-conscious notions and my thinking and feeling have been liberated by the latest session of the online course i am attending. Yes, not only is it legitimate to be talking about the emotional and social intelligence of our leaders, but it is very much part of the agenda. Two comments on this: comment one, it is my understanding that this revelation is recent not only to me, but relatively recent to the field as well. Comment two, could this be an instance of a double-standard? Did we ever question the requirement for emotional and social intelligence on teachers? Did we ever question the role of the educator in nurturing their students' emotional and social intelligence (or whatever we called it in the past, the pre-Goleman days)? There is an oversimplification and, perhaps, some one-sidedness in my loaded comments. The demand for standards, national or international, local and state control of our schools, the focus on qualifications in a competitive world did shift the focus away from 'softer' issues. And i will admit i am glad, no, not glad, HAPPY, that we now giving these 'soft' issues more of our attention. Now i feel HAPPY to admit that i have made an investment in my emotional and social intelligence and that there are values i believe in and hold DEAR to me. Not that anything stopped me before, but now i have the bibliography on my side, not just the staff room griping conversations or the long coffee sessions about frustration and job dissatisfaction.

In the amazing mazes of our virtual library i met Mike Bottery and his writings on trust where i found a lot of my thoughts and feelings articulated; his theories answer a good number of my questions and i feel HOPEFUL. Bottery (2003, 2005) describes seven levels of trust and their significance for educators: 1. calculative trust for newly met individuals, 2. role trust, the assertion by the individual that they can be trusted, since they share the values of the profession, 3. practice trust, where assumptions are dis/confirmed and the trust relationship moves into affective and value areas, 4. identificatory trust, where individuals have known each other for years and mutual unconditional respect is generated, 5. meso trust, connected with the belief in the culture and ethos of the organisation, 6. macro trust on the level where the societal conditions where individuals can trust one another are created and 7. existential (2003)/global (2005) trust, dependent on personal meaning and purpose/global forces.

Mike Bottery is not the only education specialist to research and write about trust and other relevant concepts. There is a long thread of these issues discussed in recent bibliography, for anyone who is interested. And what is more, evidence of the relationship between trust and teacher morale, job satisfaction and academic attainment can be found there.

Why am i blogging about trust? My intention is not to advertise Bottery's work and i do not wish to draw attention to the fact that i am doing an online course. I wish to share my opinion, express my FEELINGS and confirm Bottery's claim that "violations of trust, or reduction in the level of trust, particularly when these are unilaterally initiated, will be hurtful and damaging" (Bottery 2005: 7). School administrators who do not recognize the complexity of trust and do not understand its dynamics, mechanisms and its foundation areas in education will be facing damaging and hurtful results in the organization. And then they will have UNHAPPY teachers. Learning organizations have FEELINGS and VALUES. I know at least this much is true. My students know it too.

Bottery, M. 2005. Trust: its importance for educators. Management in Education. 18: 5, pp 6-10.
Bottery, M. 2003. The Management and Mismanagement of Trust. Educational Management and Administration. 31:3, pp. 245-261.