I am not an actor. I do not teach acting, but I believe that the above quote applies to my discipline of music. When I am teaching a piece of music to a group of students I often talk about how all parts are important. Whether you provide the melody, harmony, bass, or rhythm your part is integral to the whole piece. Even the percussionist who has to count 82 bars of rests so they can play the one cymbal crash at section D is vital to the success of the piece of music. Something would be missing if the crash was absent at that moment. I teach students that, like a sports team, they all need to know their role and respect each others’ roles. No one part is the most important.
We need to view education in the same light. It takes many people to make a school run smoothly. Administrators, office staff, custodians, building engineers, education assistants, cooks, supervision aides, interpreters, and teachers. Every one of these adults has an important role in providing a safe, engaging school environment for our students. There are no small roles – every person uses his/her strengths to meet the needs of students.
My current role is that of substitute teacher. I have heard opinions from other teachers that my role is not as important as theirs. I don’t have to plan, write report cards, call parents, etc. They do not consider that I often don’t know where (or if) I will be working day to day. I am constantly thinking “on my feet” as I try to follow plans (or create my own) while creating a safe and stable environment for students who I have just met. I am helping students adapt to a change in their routine, dealing with individual learning needs without prior knowledge of the students or planning time.
As a music teacher I have felt under-appreciated by some. Seen as a babysitter so teachers can have their prep. Viewed as a “fun” class where no “real” learning happens. Sometimes classroom teachers don’t understand that I have to build relationships with hundreds of students (who I only see 1-2 times per week), that I have a curriculum which I know well and follow, that I assess students on their learning using a variety of techniques, and that I differentiate for a variety of learning needs and levels just as a “regular” teacher does.
I’ve heard secondary teachers complain about elementary teachers and vice versa. I’ve know teachers who don’t clean things up because “it’s not their job”. I’ve experienced administrators who seem like they are on a power-trip. I’ve heard many people complain that someone else’s job is too easy – anyone could do it.
Why do some people feel that their job is more important or more difficult than anyone else’s?
How would our students function if they were hungry? How could we all stay safe and healthy if the building was not clean & equipment maintained? How many primary teachers would be able to clean up the “accidents” while still keeping their class under control? What would teachers who put on performances do without help in set-up and clean-up? How would our needy students function without the 1:1 support provided by their Education Assistant? How many people want to be the leader of the school, most often dealing with conflict?
We all have challenges in our jobs. It is important to recognize that each of us works together with the goal of supporting students. Though we might not understand everything our colleagues do, we need to recognize the contribution they make to the entire school community.
There are no small parts in education. Let’s not be small actors.