Tuesday, September 07, 2010

What a teacher wants, what a teacher needs

Dangerously Irrelevant (blogroll) created a super interesting post recently with a very simple topic; what teachers need from administrators.  I’d figure it would be interesting to check out the issues and give a little insightful analysis.

Give us, and advocate for us, more time to plan. Effective teaching requires, more than ever, effective planning. I would love to have as much as 2 weeks (not including a day or two to set up my classroom) at the beginning of the school year.

More time to plan?  Yes.  Two weeks plus at the beginning of the year?  Too much.  To be completely honest, I think a teacher should easily be prepared to teach within one week.  Teachers with multiple preps, shop classes, and Special Ed case carriers probably have the toughest time.  PE is the easiest.  Better solution would be to give teachers more time to prep during the week.  

It's the 21st century - let's go there with our schools!

No kidding.  Of course money has something to do with it.

Teachers should have the most say in the professional development they receive

I’ve mentioned this recently.  Not only does a school district need to let teachers deal with professional development, it needs to let teachers do more in saying if they need it all.  When a teacher is doing the right thing, sometimes it’s best to just leave them alone.  Oh, and this doesn’t work if teachers aren’t accountable when dealing in professional development.  It can be abused.

We are glad you get to attend conferences during the summer. Don't make us adopt, adapt and integrate the great thing you saw or heard about there at the beginning of each school year.

This annoys the hell out of me.  But I need to throw in that most administrators are going to the conference because they are required to.  And they are implementing the “great thing” because the district demands it.  The problem is that the accountability factor seems to be stressed on teachers, but teachers can’t help with what really works.  In my district, the new “research based” program is EDI, Explicit Direct Instruction.  With my population of students EDI is a joke.  I do better, period.

"Research Based" does not necessarily mean good, or right for our situation, great, effective, or proven over time.  There are many, many powerful, important, effective, innovative, sometimes transformative pedagogies that are NOT research based.

“Because the research says so”.  I’ve got 35 kids that say that Explicit Direct Instruction lesson plans are way below grade level.  “Research” can jump in the lake.  You can train a teacher in a million different pedagogies, but if the teacher has no energy and no admin support, all the research in the world is useless.

"Not everything that can be counted (tested) counts, and not everything that counts can be counted (tested)." - Einstein
Please, please, please - remember that when you are making decisions that narrow the curriculum for our neediest students (or any students). And yes, I know you've seen that quote before.

And we’ve heard this argument before.  Testing is becoming the norm and what we are building are not thoughtful, intelligent young men and women.  We are building Japanese style test taking machines. 

Changing course constantly is very bad. Teachers that are constantly put in a position of dealing with changing rules, curriculums, programs, principals, other colleagues, your pet project from your summer conference (and the assistant supes too), (etc).  “Please have your discipline plan, school improvement plan (sorry, the school district requires that), and back to school night plan to me before you leave today.”

As with any organization, stability will breed better results.  Our school is going through construction, new technology, mandates from the district, and the loss of staff.  Sometimes the employee needs to suck it up.  Yes, I told teachers to suck it up, because everyone else is.  Still, school districts often forget that people are actually trying to teach and make wholesale changes without considering the consequences.  In my district, technology changes with the wind and in such unorganized fashion that I simply do my own thing because I know it works better.  I don’t complain a whole lot and I don’t brag a whole lot.  When it becomes a serious impediment, I tell people that I’m confident in that it is a problem.  Some times it is solved, sometimes not.  But remember, our administrators report to other people.  So think globally.

Don't tell us that teachers are "the salt of the earth" and that we are the best darn teachers and staff that was ever assembled, and then explain to us all the "top-down" decisions we have to implement that we have little to NO real voice in. We, mostly, have master's degrees, years of experience and current experience (you, as an administrator, don't have current full time classroom experience). Let us use ours - trust us and hold us accountable for that. Hold us accountable for our planning, lesson design, creativity (and the results of that planning time you are advocating for). 

Ohhhh, should I go here?  See, I think teachers are at partial fault here and that might be controversial, but it’s the truth.  For instance, our district is very top-down.  Education wise that’s a bad thing because I often get saddled with dealing with issues that actually impair my ability to educate students.   Trust me, I can do my job and I’ll tell you what I need to do it better.  And I’m not unreasonable.  We are professionals and we should be treated like professionals.  Except that we often don’t act like professionals and that get’s us in trouble.  If my negotiations leader, President and Vice-President  represented the image of teachers in the state, we would be hunted down and burned at the stake.  Hell, I’m embarrassed about the lack of professionalism and I’m a damn teacher!  And when a union actually asks for a raise at the beginning of the greatest economic calamity in 80 years, I would expect the financial aspect of the district to be VERY top down.  Collaboration goes two ways, and when a party refuses to engage in rational conversation, it seems top down because someone is taking control of a bad situation from a child throwing a tantrum. 

You can't hold us accountable for student learning by making us use a program - and use it strictly - if we really follow the program.

Meaning, the program isn’t really what’s going to raise a student’s ability to learn.  Even more so if the program is strict.

Are the tests (assessments) we give students to decide if they have learned what they are supposed to learn actually good, valid tests? Do we REALLY know if a student passes them (or not) they are a good or poor student?

Again, not really administrators fault.  Of course the tests are idiotic, but we are all dealing with it.

Don't have meetings or set-up committees or trainings unless they are a REALLY valuable, powerful use of teachers' time.

Simple management technique.

This is harsh, but - If you have been an administrator for more years than you taught full-time in an actual classroom, you are probably disconnected from what it is like to be a teacher.

I think that this is a little less harsh, and a little more lame.  I think an administrator who has taught is valuable, but I wouldn’t put a timeline on when an administrator loses the vision of what it’s like in the classroom.  Whether we like to admit it or not, administrators should not think like a teacher.  They have financial issues, community issues, and forced mandates that we can’t even begin to understand.  I would make about 30K more as a vice-principal at Ukiah High School, and I want no part of it.  This commentary is full of frustration, and I get that, but good managers will maintain connections with employees.  It’s the right thing to do.

This might be the most important - Be open to creativity and innovation. No, BEG for creativity and innovation from your teachers and students. Then support what obviously works, and ask for changes and tweaks to what doesn't. Then hold us accountable.

Sounds about right.  We are professionals after all and we should want to do better.  If it works, let us do it.  If it doesn’t, tell us to change it.

Please help teachers have voice, and ask us to help you have voice.

Because of the media and idiotic union posturing, the “us versus them” attitude has become prevalent all around the country.  We are in a period now where the teachers are being called out and the Union bosses are doing nothing but exacerbating the issue by making dumb decisions.  School sites need to drop that crap and look at themselves as a functioning body that needs everyone working the right way. 

Lastly, where are the great examples of what works? What is awesome that happens in your schools with your teachers and students and parents!? Do you have some examples to share? Then shout out about them in every way you can think of!! Right now only others that have a different agenda (and lots of money and connections) seem to have a voice, so they are the only ones being heard. 

Yeah, in a society that thinks that everyone involved in education is lazy, overpaid, and doesn’t care, we need to do more to announce our successes.  Plenty of students do wonderful things, and as much as the media wants to flag constant failure for their ratings books, every day we see magic in the classroom and we need to pat ourselves on the back a little.  But we need to make the progress not seem transient or petty.  Real progress needs to be shown and we need to be serious about educating students.  All of us.

blog comments powered by Disqus