Beware: You Eat Lunch With a Vampire

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twilightYou’d have to be living in the Twilight Zone not to realize vampires are in vogue today.  Vampirelore is everywhere – books, jewelry, Burger King, television, and, of course, the big screen.  But the vampires we love today aren’t the dark, life-snatching Dracula types of the past.  These vampires are nice.  They don’t want to be monsters.  So, they say.

Do Schools Have Vampires?

Vampires have been in schools as long as people have been in schools.  These vampires aren’t pale white or ice cold.  Yet, they never seem contented with their plight.  School vampires talk a lot about “they.”  For example you might hear, “I don’t know why they don’t do something about poor test scores,”  or “They should walk a day in my shoes if they really want to know what’s going on down here.”  I’m not sure who the vampires think “they” actually is, but I hear them talk about them as if “they” might be supreme, all-knowing beings that can solve every problem on the spot.  It’s almost mesmerizing the way they speak of such people.  Furthermore, there are other types of vampires in schools as well.  Consider the following and ask yourself:  Do any of these people or things suck the life out of my purpose in education?

  • The policies that tie your hands, requiring you wrestle with doing right by kids vs. doing what I’m told to do
  • The administrator that is more concerned with image than substance
  • The colleagues that spend more time complaining about work than actually working
  • The voice in your head that tells you to join in on a gripe session because it will make you feel better

The Dagger to Their Heartdagger-1

Defeating the vampire that sucks the life out of your school is easier than you might think.  First, you must recognize that which is taking your life from you.  If it’s colleague or  administrator, you have a person to target.  If it’s policies that pull you down, you know your platform.  If it’s your own self-control, you have the power to change that today!  Consider some of the following suggestions for battling your school vampire.

Don’t expose yourself.  Don’t give the vampire a chance to suck you into the conversation.  Let them know you don’t want to bash others or complain incessantly.  To feel less confrontational, change the subject.  Be the one to bring up a positive topic for discussion and begin suggesting solutions.  If you let a vampire steer, they will always go for the jugular.  Read the Five Emotion Vampires to learn who and what to avoid in the workplace and how to do it.
Encourage your administrator to take part in your class.  It’s hard for your administrator to show a lack of concern for what you do if he or she is a part of it.  Don’t only invite them in – have them become a part of what’s going on in your classroom.  Make a specific appointment for the principal to come to your class and provide information about the lesson and his or her role in advance.  Moreover, ask your administrator for what you need and be specific.  If you need your leader to focus on removing obstacles for your success, make specific recommendations for action.  Communication is key.  If you want your administrator to value your work, involve him or her in it.  Take that first step.  Read more on the relationship between the administrator and teacher here.
Voice your opinion on policies that impact your students.  You don’t have to have any qualifications to register an opinion.  But, you do need to build credibility for your argument.  Note your observations of how a specific policy adversely affects your students.  Read about education reform.  Provide solutions or recommendations.  Share your thoughts with colleagues.  Start a blog.  Wrestling with what’s right and what’s required is easier when you become part of the solution!
Silence your worst critic.  Sometimes we listen to negative talk from others because of  our own self-doubt.  (See Ten Ways to Overcome Self-Doubt)  Don’t let your fears about a situation allow you to be affected by the negativity of others.   Sometimes the negative talk isn’t around us; it’s inside us.  Rechannel those thoughts into something productive.    Look for a pattern in your thoughts so that you will recognize the triggers for those negative emotions.  (See Squashing Negative Thought Patterns)

Don’t Expose the Jugular

Take note of those people in your surroundings, both real and virtual.  Really, take note.  Write them down.  Who is in your circle?  Then, ask yourself a few questions.  Do I like what they talk about?  Do I feel respected by them?  Do they encourage and support me?  Do I feel uplifted after spending time with them?  If the answer is “no” for any of these questions, you need to reevaluate those relationships.  After all, the purpose of the vampire is to suck the life out of the living.  We are rarely able to choose our colleagues,  but we can decide who we allow close to us.  Remember: If they don’t have access to you, they can’t have you for lunch.

How do you battle vampires in your school?  Post a reply!

 

8 thoughts on “Beware: You Eat Lunch With a Vampire

  1. Colin Graham says:

    A stakeholder through the heart…? (or wallet!)

    Seriously, though, it’s so much easier to bash something down than it is to build something. I was always proud of everything I ever built or made, even if my childhood efforts make me cringe now. There’s something wrong if you take pride in being negative.

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  2. Becky Robinson says:

    I love the vampire analogy. One way that I deal with vampires is to “kill them with kindness.” Another way is to ignore them and just “keep on keeping on.” Those are old cliches, but have worked for me. I may borrow your words if you don’t mind. A lot of my teachers are young and into the “vampire” books.

    How are you coming on the book study? I think we need to announce it at faculty meetings when school begins and just tell colleagues to “blog on” if they are interested. You really are a good writer. Have you done any grants?

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  3. Jennifer Barnett says:

    Becky – Consider any words I’ve written yours. Hope they help!

    I’m working on a list of books right now. I will definitely try to put something in the hands of all principals before school starts. I’ll need Dr. Lacey to give her stamp of approval to the list in the next few weeks. I’m thinking of four books for the year (one book every two months…). I’d like them to see the schedule for the year so they can choose what they’d like to read and discuss.

    Thanks so much for always being so kind, supportive, and encouraging. There really are no better traits for a principal (or human being, in general) than those! Hope you are finding some time to enjoy the summer. 🙂

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  4. Brandi Caldwell says:

    Let’s see… if I am a Twilight fanatic (which of course I am) I have to use characters to write my reply:
    Often in schools we see those enthusiastic Bella’s come in with their open-minded, new ideas and they face a Rosalie that cannot wait to pound those ideas into the ground. Of course if you are lucky, you have a principal that is like a Carlisle and a mentor that embodies Esmene- understanding, caring, diplomatic, and team player. It won’t take long for some Jasper to jump at the first site of blood/weakness/doubt. It takes the tenacity and passion of Jacob to survive those first years of teaching and the maturity and loyalty of Edward to stick with this career where so many get burned out so quickly. Just remember if we could all see into the future of our students (like Alice) we would fight for their best interest and forget the petty frustrations and obstacles.

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  5. Jennifer Barnett says:

    Brandi,
    I love your creativity! How true that each of the characters in this blockbuster really do represent the “characters” in our schools! I also like how Jacob’s pack (orginally thought to be an enemy clan) turned out to be allies. Sometimes we can partner with individuals or groups to make progress that we once assumed would never really help us achieve our goals.

    I know you miss the classroom (like me), where there’s nothing more fun than writing assignments like this. Thanks for sharing with me and hope you are well!

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