In what may or may not begin a new series on this blog, I will now (politely and lovingly, I hope) disagree with a tweet.
On the internet, nobody knows if you can manage a classroom or not. Maybe twitter can solve this. Currently, you get a blue “verified account” check next to your name if you did something cool to deserve it, like being rich or popular. Maybe we could have something like that in education. (I’m a verified red apple educator!)
Until then, there’s no way to tell online who can or can’t run a classroom.
I suppose it’s true that someone who has never run a classroom probably can’t, and these people shouldn’t try to tell you about managing behavior. But take Tom. I don’t know Tom. I have no idea what sort of a teacher he was when he was in the classroom. How would Tom’s standard apply to Tom? How can I know if Tom can run a classroom or not?
This is always how it is with teaching. We don’t have access to each other’s classrooms, so we can only rely on each other’s descriptions of teaching. That’s true for everybody, teachers and non-teachers alike.
This matters a lot more to ex-teachers than to teachers, I think. The relationship between teachers and non-teachers is complicated. You might think that teachers are just suspicious of non-teachers, and that’s true, but we also care the most about what some non-teachers say. Someone on twitter once pointed out to me that classroom teachers are generally suspicious of non-teachers but very trusting of a few chosen non-teacher experts who have credibility. This struck me as totally true.
As a consequence of all this, some non-teachers find it helpful to try to hold on to the status of in-the-know teacher even though they have left the classroom.
To which I say, it’s not worth it. Don’t bother. The kindness that teachers offer other teachers isn’t because of a presumption that this other teacher gets it, or that they have useful information to offer that non-teachers don’t. Rather, I’d say, it’s just that: kindness. I would posit that it’s not that teachers are more trusting of others in the classroom, just that we try to be nice to each other, because the job is hard and knowledge is tentative and we all know how little status we each have. Once you leave the classroom your status has just bumped up in the education world, and that extra-kindness can no longer protect you from the skepticism of other teachers.
Which is fine, because you can still influence teachers in the one way you ever could: by describing what it is that you think will work.