14 August 2013

Taking a Gander

Several years ago, I eavesdropped on a conversation between a school principal and a principal-intern. They were discussing how it is no secret which teachers are "bad" in any given school. Parents know which class they don't want their kid in...teachers know which of their colleages are phoning it in. Principals know it, too---so why don't they get rid of those teachers? The seasoned veteran said that education is not in the business of giving up on people. And even though you might know a teacher isn't cutting it in the classroom, you try to give them all the support you can so that they can turn it around---or so you hope.

I was thinking about this again this week while sitting in the PLC institute. The consistent message from them was around kids...around having high expectations for every kid. It's not a new concept. It's not revolutionary. But it did get me wondering about whether we have the same mindset when it comes to teachers.

Are all teachers able to reach expert levels with regard to instruction...classroom management...and other attributes of the profession? Do we believe that everyone can be not just "highly qualified," but an artist and scientist of the classroom? More importantly, do we expect it in the same say that we expect students to reach...and then provide the support for teachers to get there? Do our ganders not deserve the same as our geese?

I can't answer these questions for anyone but myself (and not very well, at that). When I think about the project we're doing to support teachers in "supersmall" districts, I know that we have a few strong teachers...a few weak teachers...and many in-between. It's easy to fall into the line of thinking that says "They can't ___ because of money/geography/school size/your reason here." But my role should be to not only tell them "Yes, you can ___." but also communicate high expectations for all of us with "We will ___."

I don't know what this will look like in terms of the support I provide. Perhaps it is driving out to a remote district and covering a classroom for a day so a teacher can observe a colleague in another district. Maybe it's teaching a model lesson over VC for a few teachers. It could be having a heart to heart with a superintendent/principal about the urgency of the work at hand for their students.

My original Boss Lady used to say that "Kids don't have time to wait." In other words, while we'd like conditions to be perfect---the right program, funding source, expert teacher, etc.---the truth is that the kids will arrive tomorrow, needing us to teach them as best we can. We have to jump in and move forward. Now, I think I will expand her maxim to include that "Teachers don't have time to wait, either." What can I do tomorrow to get this flock where they need to go?

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