Monday, July 30, 2012

What Will Help You Do Your Job Well?

If someone came to you today and asked, What would help you do your job well?,  how would you answer that question?

I'll be meeting with administrators soon and discussing this topic among others, hence I'm prompted to list my response. Many of the items on the list are firmly planted in the school system where I work and others are new and evolving areas of interest. I know it's not a perfect world, and I'm one perspective, but creating an environment where teachers and students can do their jobs well is an admirable goal for any educational organization.

The following ingredients help me to do my job well:

Adequate Supplies i.e. the tech, paper, pencils, creative materials, books and field experiences needed to teach a fine program.

Communication, Focus and Transparency: Shared goals, vision and direction as well as open, honest communication. There's really no need for secrets or hidden agendas in schools, after all we're working for an awesome collective goal: student learning.

Reasonable Schedules: Time to think, plan, collaborate and effectively activate and evaluate student learning. Also time for a morning break and lunch as working with large groups of young children for many hours without a break can be very challenging.

Emergency Support: Trained individuals available when an emergency occurs--the kind of young child emergency that can't be handled while you're also in charge of 20 plus others i.e. emotional upset, playground injury, heated argument. . .

Adequate Facilities: Clean, accessible and available when needed.

Professional Learning Communities (PLCs): When done well, this is an essential component for any school--research supports this effort and children thrive as a result.

Response to Intervention (RTI): Research also supports this initiative and when done well more children are served with greater skill, care and effect.

Lead Time: Most teachers lead busy lives--they juggle their school work, homework and family, hence last minute requests and late announcements often leave people out or result in ineffective work. Hence, lead time for good work and response is a better choice when it comes to decisions and initiatives.

Clear Role/Responsibility Definition: Knowing what you can expect from the many, many support teachers, staff and specialists that work in and out of your classroom everyday really helps a classroom teacher do his/her job.  Can I expect homework assignments, correcting, targeted lesson planning, arrival on time for lessons, emails if the lesson changes, consultation, supplies that help the learner, parent response, and on the other hand, what do these teachers expect of me as I realize our collaboration is a two-way street.

Voice: If the decision involves my work and students, can I be part of the conversation?  I've put a lot of time into the classroom program and knowing the children well, hence abrupt, last minute changes can have a challenging affect on my work and student learning.  When I'm part of the conversation early on, the change occurs with so much more peace and positive affect.

That's what helps me do my job well.

If I asked students, "What would help you do your best work in this class and at home?," I wonder what they'd say.  I think this will be my first student writing request--their words will inform my work.

Also if I asked administrators, "What teacher actions help you to run the school system effectively and successfully?," I wonder what they'd add to the list.

Education is a fortunate field--relatively low overhead, litte pronounced dangers, many open-minded, healthy clients with little to no political voice (children) and an awesome collective goal: teaching children well. That's why so many businesses are jumping on the education bandwagon. Let's not give up the ship too soon, as to improve our work, the first step is letting each other know what we need to do the job well. It's that simple.