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Monday, December 17, 2018

Telling Teachers What To Do

Sometimes teachers are told what to do?

In some cases, this is necessary, and in other cases, it's childish and unprofessional.

Once when I experienced a criticism at school, the administrator turned to me and basically said, it's time to change. I heard her words and readily made some changes. I knew that what she was telling me to do was imperative, and with few words, a serious attitude, and no contempt, she made that crystal clear.

On other occasions over time, I've been told what to do in irrational, childish, and punitive ways. These events have always belittled and oppressed me since there was little room to hear my side, understand what I was doing or needed, or help. In cases like these, the commands were unprofessional and demeaning.

In the best of circumstances, decisions made in schools should be the result of good, respectful, and positive process, a process that respect professional educators' education, research, collaboration, decision making, and experience.

Recently an issue like this occurred. The issue is complex for many reasons and I am only aware of a fraction of the information related to the issue, but at first sight, it appears that a good process was not determined before decisions were made leaving me with these questions:
  • Was the issue fully investigated before making decisions?
  • Were the laws, policies, and protocols fully explored before making a decision?
  • Was there a conversation amongst all stakeholders related to the issue?
  • Was the issue unduly affected by the voices of only a few rather than the voices, experiences, and researched choices of many?
  • Could this have been done better?
Good process is at the heart of every good decision. As I write this, I am thinking about the many decisions I make each day. I am wondering where I can improve process in this decision making process and where the process works well now. With any problem, our first consideration should be the process we'll use to solve the problem, and as we consider this process we should consider these questions:
  • What is the urgency related to this issue--how soon does a decision have to be made? (Time is often our best friend when it comes to making good decisions.)
  • What research is required to determine a good process for decision making?
  • Who is affected by this decision and how can they be apart of the process involved?
  • What is a reasonable timeline for this decision?
  • What is the success criteria for this decision?
As I think of decisions my colleagues and I face in the coming weeks, most are not too complex, but all demand good process:
  • How will we navigate the final months of our naturalist coach's work for our grade level? What will we do following this year of study to continue students' experiences of environmental education, activism, and stewardship?
  • How will I continue to deepen and better the math program?
  • How will we revise our teaching/learning schedule to create an even better routine?
  • How will we continue to develop student-led conferences and portfolio efforts as one way to empower students' social-emotional learning and academic ownership and success?
  • What grants proposals will we write to improve next year's programming?
  • In what ways can we continue to support one another in our collective and individual efforts to develop our practice in ways that matter?
  • How will we continue to advocate for supports that truly help us to teach all children well--supports like good materials, apt professional learning, quality staffing, adequate planning time, and more?
Teaching is a team sport, and the more we build teaching/learning environments that honor the collaboration needed with regard to decision making, process, and good work, the better we will do.