Super Teacher's Job is Never Done!

Super Teacher's Job is Never Done!
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Teaching is the profession that teaches all the other professions. ~ Author Unknown

My goal is to reveal one teacher's humble journey of self-reflection, critical analysis, and endless questioning about my craft of teaching and learning alongside my middle school students.

"The dream begins with a teacher who believes in you, who tugs and pushes and leads you to the next plateau, sometimes poking you with a sharp stick called 'truth'." ~ Dan Rather

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Change Aint Easy!

Ask any school leader what the hardest part of his or her job is in a new school, and he/she will inevitably say: trying to implement lasting change in a building of teachers taught to distrust and question any change down the pipeline. Our new assistant principal has experienced similar push back and reluctancy thus far in her tenure, which I am sure is frustrating. After all, in order to welcome change, any person -- or teacher -- needs to be convinced that the person implementing this change is honest, trustworthy, reliable, and working in their best interests.

Our new assistant principal has become a de-facto role model and mentor for me this year, being the kind of administrator I one day hope to be (should I decide to go down that path!). I have been fortunate to engage her in several private conversations about teaching, learning, leading, and coming into a new building filled to the brim with negativity, hostility, and an overall aversion to change. I truly feel for her.

This assistant principal firmly believes in the power of leading by example, empowering teachers in the best way possible, and keeping student learning and achievement at the forefront of all our goals. She is straightforward, honest, trustworthy, candid, funny, intelligent, reliable, and competent in all she does. Did I mention funny?! It is obvious, to me, that she is a rising star in the county who certainly will not be at our school for very long.

I admire this leader's proactivity, calmness, common sense, and the ability to approach any situation with logic, a clear head, and a natural empathy towards others. She encourages her teachers to be open and honest with her, having a real open door policy in her office.

Like this administrator, another fantastic colleague of mine constantly seeks proactive solutions to problems. I appreciated hearing one set of her suggestions specifically on how to move forward as a leadership team after this week's very negative meeting:

I too felt the tension in our meeting. I share Phil’s* frustration with our deteriorating processes, strained personal relationships and lack of decisions. In the spirit of continuous improvement, I have some suggestions. I don’t have a clear vision at this very moment for how to implement these suggestions but I still feel they are appropriate and would like to share my thoughts.
  • I think we need to sit in a circle. I know this is annoying to arrange because we meet in a classroom, so someone has to set up and clean up, but perhaps we can try it. 
  • I think we need to do some prep work outside of the meeting, to allow our short time together to be more productive.
    • For example, the team meeting plus deltas could have been submitted in advance and merged then re-sent for review through email. I don’t think we saved time by filling out the plus delta ahead of time, since we discussed it at the meeting. 
  • I am unclear as to why we did this at all. What was the purpose? We did not decide as an Instructional Leadership Team (ILT) to do this. The outcome said to evaluate team meetings and co-planning during quarter one.  What are we going to use the plus delta data for? Could it have been done IN a team meeting to include all members of the team? Was a plus delta the proper tool? Do we now have an evaluation or a rating of how team meetings/co-planning went first quarter? Do we have new meeting protocols to increase our effectiveness? I fear if the purpose is this unclear to me after we’ve done the work we may have wasted our time.

· I feel we need to assign and define roles. For example, we do not follow a system to take or publish notes.
o   I believe a best practice is to share our work weekly with the staff through notes.
o   Also, as a member of ILT when I am out, published notes would be appreciated. I have no way of knowing what was discussed.
o   Another suggestion would be to have one meeting facilitator. Although individuals would still share their part of the meeting a facilitator could monitor sidebars, ask the group about borrowing minutes, ensure the action steps reflect our decisions and keep the conversation focused to the task.

· Communication outside our meetings among our group is not always effective. For example, I did not know that we were going to have a guest presenter come and review the process for writing observation reports. I would have appreciated that information. It could have been shared electronically, like a little “save the date”. I use this example because I have already done an observation this year. I would have liked the expectations for observation reports to be shared in advance so I don’t have to re-do my work.

· My last thought is about follow up and holding ourselves accountable. We begin many great tasks and conversations only to set them aside and never re-visit them. I acknowledge we are all busy with lots of pressing work to be done. With that said though, I think we feed our frustration with a lack of closure. Mike reminds us of our study circles from this summer, which we never finished, due to time. Our trainer was supposed to return to an ILT in September. I recall our principal suggesting a way for staff to give feedback on a daily basis. I remember starting work on our SIP Action Plan, an Instructional Inventory Walkthrough document, November conference procedures. 

I think I feel frustration because as a member of ILT, I don’t see our work creating change in our climate or instruction. I believe we all work well as individuals, in our own departments and teams. But as an ILT, I think we need help.

As I said, I don’t really know how to go from Phil's comments, or these ideas to improvement but maybe our next agenda ought to address the issues Phil brought up.

* Names have been changed to protect individual privacy. 

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