Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Time Well Spent?

I hear consultants and coaches worry about teachers' lack of response as they lead, and I think the issue comes down to time and voice.

A tier of consultants and coaches has emerged in American education.  These coaches and consultants existed before, but their numbers have seemed to grow.  Yet the time for teachers to do their work well has not changed much, and I believe this is a significant mismatch.

As the time for coaches and consultants grows, and the time for teachers to think, plan, and respond stays the same, the system begins to take on a tiered system of thinkers (consultants/coaches) and doers (teachers) and I don't think this system serves children well.

Yes, I'm a fan of professional learning and mentoring/coaching of teachers, but I truly believe that giving teachers the time they need to do the job well is the most important change when it comes to teaching children well.  The consultants/coaches rarely work with children, and they are removed from the daily, contextual situations that differ from classroom to classroom, and school to school.  That space between consultant/coach and children lessens the urgency, will, and drive to teach individual children well; the drive that every classroom teacher feels as they look into the eyes of their children each and every day.

What implications does this discussion have for school systems?  First, as I've mentioned before, take a close look at who is working with children and when, and who is spending most of the school time doing paperwork, reading, and decision making.  There needs to be a right balance of that--and I believe that balance should weigh on having most staff working directly with students and giving that staff adequate time for planning, design, and response.  I think that building a core of dedicated, educated direct-service educators is a step in the right direction, and should be a first priority of all school systems.

While I understand that so many coaches and consultants have good vision, ideas, and dedication, and that their work is needed in part, I also know that it isn't until you work with children regularly and directly that you truly understand the efforts needed and work required to do the job well.