Sunday, September 30, 2018

The Educator's Role in System Issues

Too often educators are left out of systemwide decisions which I believe lessens the potential possible for good teaching and learning. After all educators are the people who work day-to-day and hour-to-hour with students and to leave them out of the decision making loop is to leave important voices, perspectives, and ideas out of those decisions.

As I think more about this, I think there has to be change in most school systems with regard to who has the time and place for decision making and the processes used to make those decisions. Mostly since educators are busy with students almost every minute of the day, those who make decisions are distanced from this work and often make decisions based on their own projections of what educators think rather than what educators truly think. To include educators in decision making systems have to change roles, schedules, places, and process.

How should they do this?

First, it's essential for systems to create a good short list of systemwide goals, and this shortlist has to be the result of good process with the voices of all stakeholders including students, families, educators, administrators, and community members. This shortlist has to acknowledge the system's overarching goal which I believe should be a whole child approach to good teaching and learning. When we are doing our jobs well together students are happy and they are learning the skills, concept, and knowledge that will give them a positive foundation to a good life and a good country. What are those essential skills, concepts, and knowledge?

The standards, I believe, are a good source of foundation knowledge skills, concepts, and knowledge--to teach the standards well is to give students a strong foundation for future learning. Also to make sure our programs regard social emotional learning with fidelity is also essential and to teach in ways that best meet current research and knowledge about how brains and bodies work is also essential. As Darling-Hammond and Cook-Harvey so clearly explain in their recent article, we need to be cognizant of the whole child as we design programs, teach, and forward our learning communities.

As I think of all of this and the programs I work with, I believe the we have a lot of good resources and components in place including a good schedule, adequate facilities, good resources, and highly qualified staff. What we are missing is a consistent and meaningful place at the decision-making table. Too often, decisions are made without our input and in oppressive ways. This is an area that needs to be considered carefully and changed to elevate our teaching/learning community more. To do this well, administrators would make more time and space for teacher voice with regard to decision making, managing our programs, and spending money--still much of this is decided by people distanced from students and teachers on a daily basis and this is an issue that needs greater attention. To do this well means that some administrators have to believe in this and spend time making it happen--they need to elevate teacher leadership in ways that matter.

With this in mind, I have to work with what exists and work for what I dream of at the same time. How do I do that.

With regard to the good resources, schedule, and colleagues that exist, I'll work with my team to forward a robust, student-centered, and results-oriented standards-based teaching/learning program. We take program design seriously and continue to read, research, and revise to create a dynamic program that puts students in the driver's seat of their education in meaningful, positive ways.

As far as teacher leadership, I'll continue to observe and analyze the situations that exist, situations where teachers are not included in the decision making. Currently teachers are often not consulted about major systemwide issues, professional learning time/events, scheduling of extra supports, money expenditures, and updating schools and playgrounds. All of these areas affect what we do and who we are at school, yet we have little voice in this regard.

If I had more voice/choice, I would consider these issues carefully with my colleagues, and as I consider these issues I would look for ways that we can elevate teacher leadership and add more time-on-task with students for all educators and administrators in our system.

  • co-coaching models with all coaches having essential responsibility for working with students
  • a change in building supervision/curriculum leadership models
  • service delivery start at the start of the school year for all service delivery to students rather than waiting a month or two into the school year for some services
  • a re-look at purchasing procedures and a greater ability for educators to order what they need in order to teach well rather than reaching into their own pockets to pay for needed materials.
  • a better and more inclusive process for program development
  • greater transparency with regard to decision making processes and the decisions considered and made
  • less top-down decision making and more collaborative decision making including all educators
I've been lobbying for greater teacher leadership for a long time, and while I've seen some growth, I have not seen the kind of modern changes I read about in articles about dynamic organizations, organizations that promote autonomy, mastery, and purpose as Pink's book, Drive, highlighted so long ago. There's great potential in building dynamic teaching/learning organizations, a potential we need to consider with depth and care as we move schools forward.