Many years ago, at a school I worked in, a school staff member, and obviously not a teaching staff member, continually called teachers “glorified baby sitters”. I was fresh faced from university in my first job and when she would frequently use this term I would politely smile (while my insides boiled) and continue on my way. But how do I now, some 25 years later answer to a person if that same comment was made to me now.
And my answer is eloquently put by Professor Charles Burford when he says “…we are just child minding if we have no moral literacy” and “…we are not about the growth of the character of the kids”. (2009)
When we look at teachers and leadership in a school, and not just Principal leadership, Burford suggests we come across familiar values of common good; individual rights; justice; community; and, excellence. Special values are what we call core values. In a Catholic school environment, Catholicity is one core value. When these values influence and drive our decision making processes of what and how to teach, it distinguishes us from “glorified baby sitters” to leaders in education.
But Burford goes further to suggest that we need to know, as leaders, what is the moral purpose of what we are doing? At that young age, I knew I was a teacher, a hard working , dedicated teacher but this answer had no purpose. It was just an definition of what I was. And this definition was up for critique as it had no purpose.
In hindsight, my response should have been about my values and the values of the school, and “special issues of good character” e.g. decency and not ones considered more important than others, but ones that are prioritised in the school. My response should have included my purpose of supporting children for the “common good”; or effecting justice in the school environment; or developing levels of community across all age groups.
Perhaps, this conversation with this particular staff member may not have developed any further but what it would have assured me of was my understanding of what I believed an authentic leader was. And it wasn’t a glorified baby sitter!