"The best book I've ever read
on structure and agency."
Disregarded helps teachers develop confidence, courage and effectiveness from the power of self knowledge.
Moving, poetic, insightful, painful, hopeful, touching, tragic, triumphant.
Chief Theoretical Officer, Power + Systems, Inc.
author of Seeing Systems: Unlocking the Mysteries of Organizational Life.
“Disregarded” by veteran educator Jack Bender is a gritty reflection on some of the grim realities that public school teachers face every day of their working lives. At the same time, it is full of hope that personal and institutional renewal is a real possibility, and that individuals and small groups can make a real difference in bringing that possibility to fruition. When such a hope comes from a veteran teacher who has earned his battle stripes, we know that we can trust it. As a former teacher and someone who cares deeply about the well-being of teachers and the young people they serve, I give this book an A+.”
—Parker J. Palmer (author of “The Courage to Teach,” “A Hidden Wholeness” and “Let Your Life Speak,” and founder and senior partner of the Center for Courage & Renewal
Disregarded offers a refreshingly new and highly provocative perspective. The author gives voice to the masses working at the bottom of our organizations. Bender astutely explains the experiences of people in the trenches and prescribes solutions from a variety of disciplines (best business practice, psychology, sociology and spirituality).
I truly believe your book will help me heal from the pains I have experienced within this profession.
—a high school teacher
As a former teacher, I applaud Jack Bender for his book Disregarded… Bender deftly shares his story with readers… Bender utilizes humor as he tells his story. He has an amazing talent for drawing readers in and holding their attention. Administration, management, and all employees would benefit from reading Disregarded.
—Debra Gaynor, ReviewYourBook.com
Author Jack Bender has written a powerful book on workplace change and inner transformation. He has given readers a very detailed insight into his own experience of change, not only in himself but also in his work environment.
This is a great book for everyone who has ever felt a disconnect in their workplace. It shows how an individual can make personal changes that will have an impact on others. The author discusses many topics that many readers will have experienced.
This isn’t just a book for teachers; it is for everyone who feels dissatisfied with the current level of chaos in their work environment. “Disregarded: Transforming the School and Workplace through Deep Respect and Courage” by Jack H. Bender is a book that should be read over and over not only by “worker bees” but the Queen bees themselves.
—Carol Hoyer, PhD, for Reader Views
Chapters alternate between school/work and "on retreat" with Parker J. Palmer
By page 2 the boss shows that he is ambivalent about working with employees and conflict erupts among a small group of employees.
Chapter 2 and 3 begin to suggest that knowing one’s self can combat many of the forces that work against an employee. Formation programs can equip the employee with self-understanding, confidence and courage.
Page 58 and 59 the bully boss is introduced. Can a legally empowered work team survive a powerful bully?
Often the protagonist is looking for organizational solutions. What makes a great workplace/school?
In chapters 13 and 14 the Quakers describe what the workplace might borrow from intentional communities. Respect for each other creates organizational glue. What does true respect look like?
We make the organization and the organization makes us. Like two squirrels chasing each other around a tree, we influence the organization and the organization influences us. We have to grow into courageous proactivity to individually and collectively influence the organization in a positive way. We cannot let fear govern our behavior. If we do, we will invite an imbalance of power and quicken the organization’s path toward totalitarianism, malaise, gridlock, ineffectiveness, etc.
Chapter 1 - The Journey Begins
It is we ourselves who must change
in order for the world to change.
Larry is standing sideways in the doorway brimming with conflict, one foot in the room and the other in the hallway. If he enters the room, he will not only have to share power with us, he'll add one more responsibility to his overburdened schedule. If he heads down the hall, he'll take himself out of the ballgame and maybe destroy the bridge between us.
I'm torn too. One part of me wants him to join our meeting, and the other part hopes he'll leave, so we can get back to business. The frantic drumming of my fingers on the desk tell me that I'm out of patience.
Larry arches his back and leans forward on the doorjamb and waits for an opening to speak.
We are a circle of teachers in Sue Hardy's classroom, the school improvement team for our building. It's our first meeting and I find myself wondering what motivations brought different people here. I know that when I heard the term "school improvement team" I felt wildly energized. I believe that teamwork and excellence are capstones of my personality. Even after a long day in the classroom, this is where I most want to be.
I'm also here because it's the law. On March 13, 1990, the Michigan State Legislature passed Public Act 25. Sue is the chairperson of the team and she is describing our responsibilities. She refers to PA 25 as the "Quality Act" while she distributes a summary around our circle. The act stipulates that each school must turn in an annual report, mandates that a core curriculum be established and requires accreditation in six areas.
Scanning the document, I see that it contains a carrot and a stick. If we satisfy the new requirements our district gets more money per pupil. Fail, and we will receive less than our existing entitlement. Hmm.
Chapter 4 - Winter, Death, Dormancy, Renewal
Dying is easy it's living that scares me to death.
In January the ground is frozen solid in these parts. Winter's icy arm reaches down a number of feet so local building codes require that concrete footings be at least 42” deep. The meteorologists on TV-8 warn of “Arctic blasts” and “Canadian Clippers.” A mile or two in from the Lake Michigan shoreline folks brace for “lake effect snowfall.” The lake sheds its outer skin and then snow clouds give it back with interest. A half-foot or more of snow is not uncommon in a single night.
In Pine County, where I live, we’ve tried various ways of coping with slippery roads through the years. Tire chains came first and then stud tires, but these were outlawed because of the damage they inflict on the roads. Now, salt or a salt and sand mix is spread, but the material sits idle as a tombstone if it's bitter cold.
After a Year's Hiatus
It's in this season of wind and chills, snow and rust that we gather for our second retreat. On Wednesday night I pack my bags. After work on Thursday, I head for Kalamazoo - and maybe a whole different world.
The building of Seasons, the retreat center of the Fetzer Institute, was completed in the fall and our group is using it for the first time. There was green thinking in its construction. A crane like I've seen used for skyscrapers lowered all the building materials to the site, saving every possible tree from the axe and avoiding construction of an access road.
With the completion of Seasons and our commitment to attend a two-year cycle of quarterly gatherings, our schedule begins to harmonize with the seasons. The letter I received indicates that the focus of our retreat with Parker Palmer is winter and its themes. Specifically, he's titled the retreat Winter’s Darkness and Death - Dormancy and Renewal.
Search for Self
Palmer opens our first full group session with a warm greeting. We listen to each other's accounts of what's happened since the first retreat. Palmer allows silence to settle over our circle and I see that his smile has changed into a look of concern. He's amazed at how hammered and unsupported we K-12 teachers are in our work. Part of this pounding comes from just doing business. We beat up each other because that’s just the way it’s done. “How can we care for each other and ourselves?” he has us ask ourselves. "What can we take back that will help us in our work and our lives?"
He suggests that the true self is the only place from where we can really teach. I see that Palmer remains faithful to two themes, regardless of the season. We must find our unique identity and we must take care of each other and ourselves.