Monday, June 16, 2014

Megalomania for Teachers - All the Grandeur; Some of the Delusions

As I have watched too many talented colleagues crumble under the crucible of the anti-intellectualism & anti-professionalism movement in education, I have decided that what teachers need is a super-power. Don't get me wrong - many of my colleagues already exercise a variety of superpowers every day  -the power to make the mysteries of life and learning accessible to kindergarteners, the power to make teenagers care and, dare I say, enthusiastic about solving World Issues or discovering new frontiers of microcosmic complexity.  These amazing powers are what have carried the belief that public education is a worthwhile and noble endeavor.  Alas, dear friends, it seems that it is only those educators with superhuman  abilities left who believe this value and we are an endangered species.

So, what we need is a different kind of superpower.  One that allows us to not only have endless empathy for our students while requiring excellence, not only to be patient listeners and serve as the heroes from time to time when our students are in crises.  We need a superpower that allows us to address our Kryptonite - the need for our educational system to be held to the same standard we hold ourselves - and turn that weakness into our strength.  

I realize that in the superhero origin stories that exist, it doesn't work that way.  Clark Kent did not just wake up and decide he wanted to fly and whoomp, there it was.  His unique powers were a combination of genetics and circumstance and environment.  My superpower actually does include elements of these things. Only through the pain we suffer from attempting to implement government mandated changes to our system, with fidelity, while still staying true to serving our students, will this power be awakened in all of us.

What is my proposal?  I am thinking we need to "take back" the concept of megalomania and rework it for the benefit of those educators in need.  Wikipedia says "Megalomania is a psychopathological condition characterized by delusional fantasies of power, relevance, omnipotence, and by inflated self-esteem.[1] Historically it was used as an old name for narcissistic personality disorder prior to the latter's first use by Heinz Kohut in 1968, and is used today as a non-clinical equivalent.[2][3]" (stop snarking right now about my demand for more intellectualism and using Wikipedia as a source - crowdsourcing information collection and distribution which incorporates peer review IS FABULOUS).  

Now at this point, I am quickly approaching the TL;DR portion of this rant, and may have convinced you of only two things - that the writer of this blog is definitely a narcissist (as she refers to herself in third person) in the classical, if not in the clinical sense, and that a psycopathological condition does not really sound like a good thing to promote in our society.  Hang with me - Megalomaniacs as delusional fantasy fans, understand the power of suspension of disbelief - just like any fan of a great action movie. 

One of the symptoms of Teacher SuperHeroes is that they quickly become disillusioned.  This disillusionment can be caused by many factors - the inability to secure resources needed to provide education and a positive learning environment for our students; the endless list of initiatives we are asked to implement, many of which we have seen before/are counter to what is BEST for our students/get in the way of providing quality learning and personal development experiences for the young people we feel strongly committed to.  This argument of what causes GREAT teachers to leave the profession has been discussed and proven elsewhere.  It has left me worried about the professional lifespans of my colleagues who are thinking and reflective practitioners - and WHO will be left in classrooms to lead our nation's youth into democratic citizenship?  

This disillusionment is a growing plague, my fellow SuperTeachers - it can lead to depression, a feeling that one's life no longer makes a difference, that we are small cogs in the Big Wheel of educational restructuring.  So what's a SuperHero to do?  Take ownership in a system which forbids it, believe in yourself as Change Agent of Awesomeness. Develop a SuperEgo as your superpower to help defend against disillusionment and to keep you where you belong - in the classroom, fighting the most important fight of all, each and every day.  Join me as we consider what megalomania has to offer in terms of becoming a better leader, advocate, teacher, citizen and person.

My Megalomaniac Manifesto is just beginning, my fellow SuperHeroes.  As we know, sometimes, saving the world can get in the way of other important events and tasks.  I've provided a list of topics to get us started.  Marco?

What is a SuperTeacher and where can I sign up?
Why is Education problematic (and overuse of capitalization is intentional)?
The Megalomaniac's Guide to Making Megalomania Work for You
The Megalomaniac's Guide to Facing a New Day
The Megalomaniac's Guide to Effecting Change
The Megalomaniac's Guide to Working in Teams
The Megalomaniac's Guide to Mentoring