I am growing tired of the number of posts and stories I read about everyone’s plan on “teacher accountability”. I see too many holes in too many plans to deal with what is being categorized as “THE PROBLEM” with education; bad teachers. Unfortunately, when the outcome of many of these ill-conceived plans like Merit Pay result in failure, that too will be blamed on the teachers for its failure to work and not the fact that the plan itself was flawed. Teachers are in a no-win situation with targets painted on their backs. Nowhere was it more evident than in the reporter’s attack on Matt Damon for his support of teachers at the Save Our Schools March in D.C.. I guess we should be grateful for, if it wasn’t for the press coverage of Matt Damon, the entire March might have gone on with absolutely no press coverage. Why cover a bunch of protesting teachers when we all know that they are the problem with education? They cost too much and do too little. The newest added dimension, thanks to enlightened Missouri Legislators, is that all teachers are suspected to be potential child molesters.
I am not saying that teachers should not be held accountable. I am saying that there is no one factor that is creating the perceived failure of our education system. I recently read a post suggesting that the professional thing for teachers to do was to pick themselves up by the bootstraps and fix themselves through self-evaluation. Of course that was my take on it, and I did comment to the blogger. You may assess it differently. Teacher Accountability & PLCs.
The one big question that keeps nagging at my brain is: Where is our leadership in all of this? Other questions: Who is standing up for teachers? Besides Diane Ravitch whose voices are we hearing nationally in support of teachers? But the most important question of all is: Where are our local, educational leaders in this? What responsibility are the superintendents, assistant superintendents, directors, principals, and assistant principals taking for the “demise” of our education system?
I do not want to enter the realm of Admin bashing, but there are some observations that can be made that might be helpful in leadership evaluation. After a career in secondary education, I have a longstanding awareness of the capabilities of teachers. Additionally, my recent experience with educators involved in Social Media is also very positive, and finding that most educators are involved to improve their craft and be relevant as educators. Most educators entered the profession for reasons more noble than to bilk the system with an easy ride for high pay and healthcare. The leadership of education comes from these very ranks. What happens to the educator who transitions to an administrator? Are all administrators leaders? How much of our administrators are still educators?
The industrial model of education requires a hierarchy of supervision. Unfortunately, for some Admins, this creates an adversarial relationship with an Us/Them mentality and teachers become the problem. Those admins may no longer be comfortable with teachers and tend to lead from their office. You won’t find them in professional development workshops. Some will never enter the student cafeteria at lunchtime. Walking the halls is the lowest priority on a long list of important administrative duties.
A stable school culture is developed over time. To affect that culture in a positive way, any admin needs to spend time working on needed change. The system however, often requires that admins move on, to move up. Aspiring admins are too often not around long enough to affect needed change leaving that to the next admin to come along. This also creates a void in teacher evaluations. Any continuing guidance an admin may be offering a teacher in need of such structure, leaves with the admin. The new admin generally does not want to rock the boat or create enemies, so follow-through is usually tabled for the time being. That usually means, until there is a problem that is visible. Some refer to this as falling through the cracks. administrator mobility causes many, many cracks.
Leadership works best when there is a mutual respect between teachers and admins. It has been my observation that this works best when admins view themselves more as educators than supervisors. An educator who supports other educators in the goal of developing learners is a much more respectful way to lead than the Boss and Worker model. Support of teachers requires trusting teachers. That requires giving teachers power. The Power and control issue in any school creates that adversarial thing that always gets in the way.
The whole educational philosophy idea can really muck things up as well. At the extremes we have conservatives and progressives. The conservative approach to education much as in politics, harkens back to the tried and true methods of olde. The progressive philosophy calls on teaching the 21st Century skills and employing tech tools for learning. Of course the bulk of educators fall somewhere in the middle, again, much like politics. This is where professional Development and life-long learning come into play. Better learners make better teachers. Better learners also make better leaders. This can’t happen with once or twice a year workshop day for teachers. We need Leaders to offer constant PD and to lead the way by modeling their involvement.
There is an Irony here that I feel the need to point out. I do not expect too many comments from administrators objecting to my opinions here. Most of the administrators who would even be exposed to this post are the administrators looking to learn and reflect for a better way to lead. The unfortunate part about that is that, they represent only a small, but hopefully growing number. So, the people who I need to have read this post for the most benefit, will never see it. Maybe they would, if someone printed it out and walked it into their office.
To be better students, we need better teachers. To be better teachers, we need better leaders. To be better leaders, we need better methods. To get better methods, we need more involvement. To get more involvement, we need to be better learners. Ta Da! To be better Educators, we ALL need to be better learners.
In addition to all of this, we need to be better marketers of education. Marketing is the key to success. I once took a marketing course for educators at, of all places, Disneyworld, the Mecca of marketing. That was a valuable course for me. I learned the four important points for marketing education.
- Do a good job. 2. Do a good job. 3. Do a good job. 4. Tell everyone about it!