Thursday, January 29, 2015

How long before administrators lose touch with the realities of the classroom?


Known as the instructional leaders and the lead learners in their respective buildings.

Typically, these individuals have demonstrated superior skills in the classroom and have been able to take their students to levels of learning that others weren't able to do.

These former teachers have been able to compete with countless other teachers to convince a panel of interviewers that they would be the best candidate to lead a building.

As many know, administrators are charged with managing the day-to-day operations of the school and are responsible for all the students and staff within the building.

A big part of an administrator's job is to evaluate and grow the personnel with whom he/she works. Specifically, helping to improve classroom instruction in the hopes of improving student learning.

Administrators provide their teachers guidance, feedback and suggestions on how to improve student learning.

They critique and judge teacher performance on a daily basis which no doubt is followed by recommendations for improvement.

But, here's the question...

How long does it take before administrators lose touch with the realities of the classroom?

We all would probably agree that the longer an administrator is removed from the classroom, the less they 'remember' about the classroom and the less they are able to sympathize with the plight of the everyday teacher.

But, on the flip side, administrators are able to see countless teachers teach and countless lessons on any given day. Some of these lessons succeed with flying colors while some burn in a blaze of glory.

Naturally, all these classroom visits surely help an administrator's eye when it comes to knowing good learning vs. poor learning.

Also, does it really take a trained eye to know when good learning is happening? It doesn't take an educational expert to know when kids are learning vs. when they aren't, right?

But, it's much more than just knowing when good learning is happening... it's what happens when good learning isn't observed and there is a follow-up conversation with a teacher on how to improve.

On the other hand, how could an administrator ever truly know what a teacher is going through if they haven't been in their shoes in quite some time?

In closing, are administrators who are freshly out of the classroom better at evaluating teachers since they are recently removed? Or, are these new administrators stuck in their offices dealing with school discipline while the more senior administrator, who is further removed from the classroom, handles most of the classroom observations?

Curios to hear your thoughts on this topic...

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

#Leadership: If everyone is happy, then you're not doing it right...

So, we've all heard the saying or a variation before...

'If somebody isn't upset with you, then you must not be doing anything.'

Leadership is one of those things that a lot of people think they are good at and think they understand. The reality is, leadership is wildly complex and is much easier said, than properly done.

By no means do I claim to be a leadership expert, but I do find the topic to be quite interesting and something of a hobby of mine.

Back to that saying we all know too well...

So, is it true that if somebody isn't talking behind your back and questioning your judgement, then you must not be doing much?

I think there is a little truth to this saying, but like many things, I don't believe it's the whole truth.

Here's the deal... sure, if you aren't a mover and a shaker and if you aren't the type of person to question what somebody says and aren't willing to hold those with whom you work accountable, you might be able to keep the masses happy.

By avoiding difficult decisions and by failing to clearly outline your expectations and beliefs, you are able to skate around the 'responsibility' target which can keep the bullseye off your back.

However, I think this will keep most folks happy... but not all. And perhaps 'happy' isn't the right word, because I honestly feel those folks have been lulled into a sense of complacency and contentedness.

The folks who are looking to leave their mark and make an impact, won't be happy with this type of 'hands-off' leadership. These folks are looking for a leader with a vision who has the backbone to step up and take the organization to the next level. These folks thrive on progress and thrive on questing the status quo. These folks will overtime become quite frustrated with a laissez-faire approach and will eventually seek employment elsewhere.

Here's the flip side though... if everyone is upset, then chances are you are doing too much and trying to micromanage everything.

Like many things, leadership requires a balance and that balance is constantly in flux. Make no mistake... leadership is much easier said, than properly done.

So, what do you think?

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Which content area do most administrators teach prior to entering administration?

I recently did some informal data collection in regard to which content area current administrators taught prior to entering administration. I simply used a Google Form to send a few tweets out asking for feedback and input. I also sent out a few emails to administrators I know who may not be actively using Twitter to help spread the word. Overall, I received 316 total responses from current practicing administrators.

Here are the results of the survey:

Saturday, January 24, 2015

What if I'm doing #education all wrong?

I read an article recently that really got me thinking about my approach and beliefs toward education.

I consider myself to be rather confident and strong in my resolve when it comes to what I believe is best for kids, but this article just resurfaced some thoughts that have been circulating for quite some time.

The article is titled 'Why Tough Teachers Get Good Results' and was published in Sept. of 2013.

The article shares the story of Mr. K, a beloved music instructor who passed away a few years ago. Mr. K's impact on his students was celebrated and remembered as former students flew from all over the world to attend his funeral and pay their respects.

Then, the article takes an approach that I really appreciated. Instead of focusing on what we as educators are doing wrong, it instead focuses on what Mr. K did right to positively affect so many of his students and prepare them to lead successful lives.

But, here are the types of lines in the article where I began to struggle...

'Mr. K basically tortured us through adolescence.'

'It's time to revisit old-fashioned education.'

'Strict discipline, unyielding demands...'

And entire paragraphs like this:

Here's the deal... as I read the article, I found myself disagreeing with many of the points the author was making about Mr. K's proven and time-tested strategies to successfully impact student learning.

Many of the so-called time-tested and proven strategies being praised in this article fly in the face of change I've been working for my entire education career.

I've advocated for and passionately shared with any who will listen my beliefs on increasing empathy and understanding in our schools.

I've carried the flag on dismantling any belief that 'drill and kill' is the way to student success and that simple rote memorization of facts is merely preparing our kids for a world that no longer exists.

I've pushed for sweeping change in regard to the old-fashioned way of education in lieu of a more nimble and progressive approach to student learning based on the demands of a 21st century society.

I blog about and tweets things that probably make Mr. K roll over in his grave.

But, what if Mr. K was right in his approach?

What if what I've committed myself to is only making things worse?

What if my solutions to improve and positively affect education are actually working against what is best for kids?

What if I'm doing #education all wrong...?

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Why good teachers don't quit...

Back in Oct. of 2013, the te@chthought blog shared a blog post written by Kay Bisaillon titled, 'Why Good Teachers Quit.' The article is well written and for all intensive purposes, went viral. With over 128,000 likes on Facebook, it's safe to say it struck a chord with many.

A few things before I begin though...

Terry Heick is a phenomenal education mind and has one of the best blogs out there.

Also, the content of the 'Why Good Teachers Quit' blog post is absolutely 100% correct. Teaching is a tough job and it's not for the faint of heart. Working in education is not what it used to be, and it's most certainly becoming more difficult and complex. The education system has placed both purposefully and unintentionally restraints on educators which have profoundly affected their ability to create conditions for students to learn and maintain personal and professional satisfaction.

I'd also like to make note that this isn't about 'good' teachers vs. 'bad' teachers... this is an education issue.

Having said that, I'd like to present the other side of the coin because there are countless teachers who have elected not to quit and have continued to let the positives outweigh the negatives, and their story needs to be told:

Sure, what we know about teaching and how students learn best, seem to be a constantly moving target. This new information takes time to master and takes time to fully implement and put into practice. But, these teachers view being on the cutting edge of new pedagogy and new brain research as something exciting for their students. They view living in a day and age where we know more about learning than we ever have in the history of mankind as game changing. These teachers thrive in this changing world of uncertainty.

Yes, teachers and the education system are under a seemingly unyielding attack from people from all walks of life. This hurts and this stings because we all work hard and we all believe in what we are doing. Having said that, these teachers view this constant barrage of criticism as an opportunity to repair and fix education-community relations. They view what they do every single day as an opportunity to rewrite the story and change the hearts of those who are misinformed.

Is the work-life balance shifting, yes, it is, but it's not just limited to the field of education. Technology has made working outside of work much easier, but in the same breath, the lines of work-life are becoming increasingly blurred because it's hard to honestly separate the two. As educators, it's who we are and it's what we do. We don't and can't just turn off the 'educator' mentality. Of course, the grading and paperwork and stuff that can't be done during the day sometimes comes home with us, but it's becoming increasingly rare to find a job that ends at 4 p.m. The important work teachers are doing has no bounds.

There are also teachers who work in schools where they have a supportive administration that is committed to protecting them from all the nonsense that seems to permeate throughout schools all across the globe. These teachers feel protected and comfortable speaking up about issues that impact and affect them and they are a part of a collaborative culture where teamwork is highly prized.

And most importantly, there are teachers who don't quit because they understand and appreciate the awesome responsibility and opportunity they have to literally change the world and make it a better place for those living and those who've yet to join us. These teachers realize that for many young kids the only chance they have is the door opened by an education. They also realize that if they aren't the ones in schools helping these students, then who will? Lastly, they realize this isn't somebody else's problem... this is an all of us kind of problem.

Sure, we are losing some good teachers and some not so good teachers due the changing landscape of education. But, we've also been retaining some great educators within our ranks, and the last time I checked an open teaching position in my district, there's no shortage of highly qualified candidates looking to impact the world...