Monday, September 6, 2010

What Teachers Need from Administrators.

Dangerously Irrelevant has the beginning post of a series on what teachers want from administrators. Though I agree with some of this gentleman's points, there is some contradiction in what Brian Crosby says.

I agree with him when he wants teachers to have more say in professional development. No wasted meetings. This should be obvious, but isn't. Admin who haven't taught in years should temper their advice. Schools should hire teachers and then expect them to be teachers - stop second guessing all the time. Accountability is good if you allow the teachers to teach. If you require they follow a script, then hold the script accountable.

Absolutely: Change for its own sake is stupid. Adopting the gee-whiz Fad of the Month from a summer admin workshop while instituting a new math curriculum, new science curriculum, and new Common Core Standards only ruins any chance of knowing whether any reforms were successful. Maybe it's a science mindset, but you should only change one variable at a time if you want to isolate cause.

"Research" in education is often inapplicable to the school. Apply with care. Read the damn paper before you try to implement the hype in the newspaper report of the University press release of the heavily hedged Executive Summary. Don't expect the 150 college students in the study to behave in the same way as your high-schoolers.

When you make changes, you should be "experimenting" properly. Measure before and after. Have a control group. Add your data to that of the study. Isolate variables. Either track the proposed change scientifically or accept the fact that you are playing Russian Roulette with kids who won't get another chance at a high school education.

I'm not so thrilled with the idea of 2 weeks in the beginning of the year for planning - seems like too much and wouldn't be well used by the faculty. It's a nice idea in theory, but details go out the window at first contact with students. Besides, I like having the summer.

A big sticking point for me is the reform contradiction and I felt that his message lost its way.

Saying "Changing course constantly is very bad," he wants to stay away from the Summertime Fad and avoid jumping on the research-based fad. Then he wants to explore non-research-based pedagogies (i.e., fads), change to 21st century tech and wants his admin to "BEG for creativity and innovation." Which is it?

"Creativity and innovation" are euphemisms for "summer workshop fad" except for frame of reference. Is it always a fad if your admin proposes it but realistic and wonderful if it came from your own 6-hour workshop? Brian is tripping down this staircase.

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