To grow programs with a lack of support is challenging as even to do the simplest things becomes a challenge yet to give up on this would be to give up on my students and colleagues. So what will I do to develop programs and teach well in the days ahead.
Field Studies and Special Programs
There is little to no systematic support for field studies and special programs yet these kind of events significantly and positively impact the teaching/learning program in multiple ways. Due to the lack of support, many teachers do not plan these special events or field studies. I am not prepared to give up on this, but I do want to discuss this issue with system leadership. I want to know if they support these kinds of learning events and, if they do support this kind of learning, how will they increase supports that help teachers with the following:
- streamline paperwork
- provide needed funding
- provide greater staffing support
- give teachers a personal break upon return from trips like this (when teachers take children on field studies, many support teachers get extra planning and prep time, perhaps those teachers could chip in and help out upon return to the school)
- provide time for the needed planning and prep for these special events and trips. As it stands now teachers generally do this work during the summer or on their days off since these trips and events take a lot of time to plan and prepare for.
Grants, Professional Learning, and Program Development
To truly change programs in ways that matter mean that system leadership are open and willing to listen to educators and support their learning and ideas in ways that matter. Often teachers are left our of program development issues and their professional learning is not regarded with care. This is discouraging for teachers and leaves programs mired in old think and less student-centered connections. Too often money is wasted because program development is contracted by outside agencies or old time committee work rather than using modern processes that truly make a difference with regard to apt program development and change. To use good, inclusive process that respects the voice and choice of all stakeholders with regard to program development is to do better in this regard. I've looked beyond my system for this kind of support via grants, learning events, and connections to educators throughout the world yet I continue to face problems when it comes to integrating the good ideas I learn of into the programs at school since there often is little systematic support for this learning, development, or change. This is another area I want to think more about and discuss further with open minded district leaders.
Focus on the details daily results in good teaching and learning. These details are often obstructed by systematic issues related to staffing, space and tools for instructional material prep, last minute schedule changes or unreliable schedules, and more. These obstructions are frustrating and often finds teachers having to make one impromptu change after another to accommodate the missing staff, schedule change, broken copier, or lack of space. Part of teaching well is to be flexible, but when we don't truly think about what our priorities are and then do the best we can to match schedules, staffing, and resources towards meeting those priorities, we impede the progress and good work possible. Taking teachers' needs seriously is a first step to helping every educator meet the details of the job. When photo copiers don't work, that's a problem. When substitutes are not hired for needed staffing, that's a problem. When schedules change on a whim, that's a problem too. It's important that school teams decide what their priorities are, and then work to support those priorities in ways that translate to successful, sensitive service to students and their families.
There's much we can do to learn and teach well. When our system efforts support teacher/student goals and needs, we are more likely to reach our collective goals of teaching every child well. Onward.