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Archive for October, 2019

leadership-crisisAnyone who thinks that there is one answer to all that is wrong in education is at the very least ill informed. Public education has had hundreds of years to establish practices and procedures that would ultimately slow down any progressive ideas for change. This is the Kevlar vest against any silver bullet that an insightful, forward-thinking change agent might shoot. That seems to be the strategy to protect most bureaucracies, but that being said, there are still many good things happening within the education system.

Most change in education comes about through the leadership and passion of individuals within the system. More often than not, change is localized rather than a national movement. Too often, if the person driving that change is removed from the movement, then the movement itself is soon diminished and eventually forgotten. That might be the key for promoting lasting change. Do not put the responsibility for continuing change on the backs of one or two lead teachers. If change is to last, it requires support from the top leadership. Bottom-up change is great when successful, but how often does that happen without top-down support?

The best example I can think of is the Edcamp movement. It is a different approach to professional development. It is a model based on educators discussing specific topics that they are interested in learning more about, or topics that specific educators know quite a bit about and want to share that knowledge with other educators through discussion. Using discussion to collaborate is more in line with adult learning. It is also a model that is based on respect for what every participant brings to the table on the subject.

This model has been successful because administrators, as well as teachers, have supported it. The driving force behind the Edcamp model is the need that educators have to learn more about their profession in a world that is changing more rapidly than the education system can deal with. The goal of education is to educate kids to: live, learn, survive, and thrive in that ever-changing world. All of that considered, one would think, that this model of professional development would have been adopted nationally over this last decade of its existence. It hasn’t, and teacher dissatisfaction with conventional professional development continues to be a point of contention.

We acknowledge that professional development is much needed for teachers to keep up with the latest methodologies in education. Most districts require teachers to be involved with some minimum requirement of time for PD. That PD can be general to education or specific to a subject area, or a technology. Most districts provide PD for a day or maybe two to check off the “PD provided” box on their “to be done” list. The question I have is: do districts have the same PD expectations of their lead administrators?

Being an education administrator is a hard job. Most administrators come from the ranks of teachers and enter a whole new world of: business, public relations, labor management, budget control, public speaking, and leadership. Beyond all of that, they are considered to be the lead learners of the school district. It is a tough job balancing all of that and trying to keep up with what teachers are doing in their classrooms. It stands to reason that districts might not want to put another thing on their administrators’ plates, like a minimum PD requirement. Yet, when we consider what administrators do, why shouldn’t they be as relevant as the teachers that they lead?

I engage and collaborate with many administrators around the country and outside the USA as well. The administrators I have worked with have all been progressive, supportive, and open to change wherever they found it possible to be so. The question arises that if all administrators are like the ones I have worked with, why hasn’t the education system made positive changes by leaps and bounds? Maybe there are a greater number of administrators who are less educated about what should be relevant in education today. All of the bottom-up change from teachers will never stick without support by informed and relevant administrators.

We know we need to reform professional development in order to meet the need for educators to maintain relevance in a culture that is changing with the advance of technology at a pace never before experienced. We need to include the leaders of our educators in this ongoing need to keep up.

For decades I have said, “If we are to better educate our kids, we need first to better educate their educators.” I now believe that if we are to better educate our kids’ educators, we need to first better educate their leaders.

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