Have you ever heard someone use these terms: my students, my classroom, my school, my district, my team, my family, my job, my people, my world…? If you have, you would be wrong in doing so, according to some leaders. They would like you to switch the word “my” to “our”. If you use the term “my”, you are seen as individualistic – not a team player, negative, not willing to collaborate…
OK – I get it. I am not stupid – I understand what you are saying. But can you understand what I am saying when I use the term my? Using the term “my” does not mean I that I do not want to collaborate. It does not mean that I don’t see the value of team. It does not mean that I don’t care about other students in other classrooms.
Under my name on the class lists are the names of about 28 students. You have placed those students with me. So I take ownership of those children. I have a vested interest in those kids. If they are special education students with an IEP they are still my students. If they are English Language Learners that receive some assistance from ESL teachers – they are still my students. If they are gifted and talented students that receive additional services – they are still my students. If they are 504 students – they are mine. If they are general education students named under me – they are mine. I take ownership of these kids making sure that they are making progress, that they are safe (emotionally and physically); I advocate on their behalf; I talk with and work with their parents; I am aware of their needs; I know their strengths and weaknesses… If these students are with me for the majority of the day, it is imperative that I take this on – that I see these children as mine. I take responsibility for their growth and development during the school day.
This is hard enough to do with a class of students. I cannot give this kind of energy to every student in the school – that is why you have classrooms and classes or groups of students assigned to teachers. A principal might say – “Well, I have all students’ best interests on my plate.” (Oops not my, but our.) It has been said time and time again, that the teacher is the number one indicator of student achievement in a school. It is because he/she is the one directly involved in working with the whole child. While the principal is important – the teacher is the one leading that classroom and that group of students.
Saying “my” doesn’t mean I won’t help a student from another class – it simply means that I am giving my all to making sure these kids are “successful”. I make it my business to know the whole child. It is important that other teachers, such as special education and ESL, listen to my views and thoughts on a student and not dismiss my work with these students. Nor is it in the best interest of students for others to totally ignore my contribution to the education of these students. Is it considered teamwork when a classroom teacher is not invited or involved in meetings that pertain to the students in his or her classroom?
As a past principal, it never bothered me when a teacher said "my" students. I saw this as indicative of a good teacher looking out for those students placed under her/his name. I wanted them to “own” those students, to consider them theirs. I even presented that to the staff, that they see these kids as their own – no matter what their ability, no matter what their race, no matter what their services.. I loved it when they looked at their students and said, “You are mine.” “I got you.”