What is reasonable? When great teachers make other teachers look bad

In every school there are teachers who may be fabulous and make teachers who are good look quite ordinary in comparison.

In so many ways it is wonderful to have committed great teachers who may go beyond the norm in delivering their classes, communicating with parents and contributing to the school as a whole.

There is a downside too, in that parents will make this comparison and demand that other teachers commit to doing the same as that great teacher they and their child just love. This creates a significant dilemma for school leaders who need to support all teachers in order for a school to move forward. In many instances, teachers and school leaders quite rightly  feel that comparisons from parents are unfair and unjustified.

In worst case scenarios, I have seen great teachers in schools resented and even bullied because others just cannot keep up and are being constantly pushed to do more and more beyond what they feel is reasonable.

I have seen over the years, among others, comparisons made between teachers in:

  • the frequency and type of communication
  • the adoption of different teaching strategies and learning technologies
  • time given to students after school (by the way more time given does not always equate to better teaching)
  • commitment to extra-curricular activities

So, should we hold back that great teacher who is making the others look bad? Of course not.

The issue lies in how schools define their expectations of teachers and communicate this both to teachers, parents and students. If teachers are meeting the expectation of the school, then it should be relatively easy to respond to parents who are demanding that certain teachers give more because Mr or Mrs X did this or did that.

We have to be clear that when teachers do the extraordinary, then we should be thankful for it when it happens but recognize that each teacher is different in ability and level of commitment that they can give in any day. Take for example a teachers personal circumstances and their family life. What a teacher may have given to a school before they were married with children may have been significantly more depending on the person.

It becomes easier to for school leaders to support and defend teachers when unfair comparisons are made between them by parents if the expectations are understood by all. As long as our expectations are fair and reasonable to most, if not all, then we should be in a decent place to respond when the next teacher may not ‘be as good’ as the previous one.

We need to mindful that our willingness to serve our school community to the best of our ability can be as divisive as it can be productive. Refrain, however, from holding great teachers back.


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