Regular readers of this blog know that I occasionally divert from the crafty realm and talk about my work life and sometimes mention a colleague that pushes my thinking. Today is one of those days. He wrote a post on his blog ‘Talking about teachers when they are not around’ In the post he had a decree ‘All district employees should teach at least one class to students at all times.’ No doubt in frustration after meeting w/admin types who seemingly don’t care about teachers or individual students.I believe it’s his first year out of the classroom and in a central role. It’s a tough transition, one I would have said I remembered well, but my gut reaction…’grr Admin work hard too and teachers don’t appreciate it’ told me told me it’s been a while since I’ve been in his place. One thing I have learned after 9 years in an administrative role is to beware of knee jerk reactions and too look at all perspectives so I didn’t shoot off an email last night, instead rested and pondered and crafted this response and sent via email this am…of course he’s a stickler for sharing and collaboration and challenged that I should share publicly. (did I mention he was pushy)
I pondered this post overnight and talked to the dog about it on our walk this am(which is where I usually process your posts/challenges/projects feel free to join me in the field at about 6:45 am to get my thoughts before the school day gets rolling), so here I am fresh from the walk with a response in hand, actually writing before I go in and it gets lost in the ‘what so’ of the day.
I think this post touches (although in a slightly biased way)of one of the inherent flaws of education…there’s always someone to blame. Teachers blame admin for just ‘not getting it’, not enough resources, etc. Admin blame teachers for not doing their job. Teachers blame other teachers…’math teacher has no idea what it’s like to spend the night grading papers’ and if those don’t work we can always blame the student.
But at the end of the day there are still 1000s of students who are not engaged learners. So it is up all of to us to use our skills sets where they are best served, and in some cases that means teaching, in others working on the bigger picture. And maybe just because I know more than a few admins who I would be scared, for the student’s sake, if they taught a class I don’t think your solution, although Utopian sounding, is the right one. What they lack in teaching skill, these same admins have an excellent ability to see the big picture, to negotiate with vendors, to handle the upper level politics also inherent to education. What I do think is that all stakeholders should have meaningful interactions with students and faculty on a regular basis and if you meet with an admin and ask when was the last time you talked with a student and they can’t answer that’s a problem.
‘I cannot wait to leave places when others are complaining about the rogue teachers who are pushing the boundaries of what is acceptable in the district.’ I bet this is frustrating, would that more of my teachers push the boundaries, be solution oriented, etc. Instead the ones I complain about are those that don’t, those that cannot explain in specifics why 1/2 of their students are failing and what they plan to do about it; those that cannot tell me without looking at their notes and even then maybe not with certainty who is on track to graduate. This is what I find frustrating and keeps me awake at night. If they don’t get it, how are the students going to get it? What can I do to support the teacher who doesn’t what to/think they need support? Some days I feel like I’m surrounded by the ‘we can’t…’ and would gladly trade for boundary pushers.
Why is it that the perspective changes so drastically when kids are removed from the situation, making someone believe that they know better than someone that is with the kids? They don’t know better, but the perspective does change when your talking about all the students in a school or district. It’s my hope (and I may be living in what Tina calls my ‘lala‘ land) that at the level you are working with they’re looking at the big picture…3000s kids, 40,000 kids and as much as teachers struggle in their classrooms to find the ‘key’ for any given student think about finding the resources for all 40,000 and knowing, just as a classroom teacher does, that what works for one will not necessarily work for another, yet we’re still responsible to stakeholders for finding large scale answers and resources. I hope that those you are working with feel this weight, even if it’s not visually apparent, I know I do. And what an admin position lacks in the physically draining aspect of day to day teaching, at least for me, has 3x the emotional drain. Throw this into the mix with the teachers I referenced above and you know why I look at you with glazed eyes first thing in the morning.
Now a few hours hours later I’m still thinking, I didn’t really offer a solution. No doubt there needs to be mutual respect and admiration, but how is it gained? Administrators at all levels through superintendent should have opportunities in which they have meaningful long term relationships with students…teaching a class may not be the option, but what about mentoring, special programs, etc? I agree that it should be more than a casual tour through or a one time conversation. But what of teachers having a greater understanding of the administrative role? How do we get there? I had typed out a bunch of snarky suggestions of things I’ve had to do over the past 9 years that never crossed my mind when I was in a classroom, but snarky comments only contribute to problem and don’t help. So teacher friends/colleagues…What say you?