I am still mastering the art of this act of self-empowerment. In my building, I would gladly argue that each teacher is committed and holds him/herself to high standards; what those standards are and how they're set may differ of course, but the intention is the common bond.
I count myself as lucky that I ended up in a position where I have a variety of wonderful mentors all around. What I've also observed is that some teachers are very attached to a sense of control. Unfortunately, this control identity has sometimes spread in an attempt to control other teachers' teaching, and sometimes authority.
Before you jump to the conclusion that I am speaking out against any teacher or partaking in some easy-to-blog gossip, please - do not misunderstand (my diplomacy sets in already)! My intention is to do neither, but to simply draw attention to this all-too-easy human trap - falling victim to this type of control, and exasperating the cycle. There have been three incidents this year with two separate teachers, in which my decisions as a professional have been publicly questioned or demeaned. When I say publicly, I mean out loud in front of students and possibly other teachers. When I say demeaned, I refer to the more negative (as opposed to more positive) approach in tone and language.
The first time was quite upsetting, and another teacher who overheard was quite outraged at what had taken place. While she might have taken a more direct approach to confront this teacher, she was also understanding of the fact that I'm a first-year and "may not want to rock the boat too much." I did bring the situation up in conversation with my mentor, who is similar to me in nature, and who gave me a very diplomatic approach to addressing this teacher, should such a scenario occur again.
The following two times were with the same and a different teacher. Each time, attention was drawn to a choice I had made as a professional (and which, in no way went against school rules or was at risk of harming a student or other individual). To their credit, within 10 minutes, each teacher then addressed me privately, somewhat apologetic and looking for more information (or to assuage some guilt for unnecessary confrontation - at least, that's my intuitive notion). Each time, I clearly explained why I had done what I had done, and on at least one occasion told the teacher that "it was okay" that she had called me out. In other words, I forgave this teacher for her seeming indiscretion. Forgiveness is not the problem. Surely, holding a grudge would be far more damaging and a waste of energy.
The point I'm trying to make is that in each incident, I failed as a professional (more than once) to stand up for myself. While I might have explained my reasons, I missed an opportunity to assert my opinion in the manner in which each situation was handled. I could/should have communicated that I appreciated his/her concern, but that I would prefer the teacher to seek me out at another time to more privately convey his/her concern about a particular incident.
As another teacher noted when she first heard, and then witnessed such a scenario, the approach these teachers took not only "undermines your authority as a teacher in front of your students", but such an attempt is a jab (however unintended) at your status as a mature professional. I agree, wholeheartedly; taking such a perspective is based on principle.
When I later confessed my reasons for not doing so to someone very close to me, his response was that being assertive is "liberating". I like this idea quite a bit. Even after explaining myself, I still carried a bit of weight in my heart, feeling the aftermath of having been called out, put in the spotlight for "doing something I shouldn't have done."
Such incidents have actually helped me in a way, serving as a reminder to be highly conscious of never treating a student in such a manner, to whenever possible address a disagreement or concern in private - to maintain that individual's dignity and to nurture a relationship of respect.
More importantly, I've realized the need to stand up for myself, as a professional and as a human being. While my years of experience may not match those of surrounding teachers, my passion and commitment is certainly on an even playing ground. Overcoming fear of confrontation. Liberation through diplomatic directness. Standing up for beliefs.
May I, and all new teachers, take these lessons to heart today, tomorrow, and the next, and set an invaluable example for our peers, and perhaps more importantly - our students.