Thursday, July 27, 2006

Chapter 1

There is simply not enough opportunity and not enough encouragement for teachers to work together, learn from each other, and improve their expertise as a community. (p.1)

Currently I am blessed with a situation where inter-visitation is encouraged, and time is set aside for team (grade level) planning. Although not everything is best done in teams having the option really lends to excellent morale in the school. I am not at all concerned with how I am perceived by my administrators, however each day I come to work and think to myself what will my teammates (specifically the English or Math teacher) think of me when they visit my class today?

However I have been in schools where this was discouraged. Using your “prep time” for professional development was something one administrator wanted to write me up for.

"This simultaneous bottom-up and top-down tension in bringing about reform is a symptom of fundamental dilemmas and problems in bringing about educational change." (p. 2) The authors identify six basic problems in this struggle:
1. Overload

2. Isolation
3. "Groupthink"
4. Untapped Competence (and the neglect of incompetence)
5. Narrowness in the teacher's role (and the problem of leadership)
6. Poor Solutions and Failed Reform

When I read this section so many things rang true. I always just neglected the incompetent teachers, and I personally felt like I was never given an opportunity to show I was competent. Decisions always seemed top down, and whenever a new reform was passed down from the incompetent top I was always very cynical and waited for the reform to “blow over”. I would publicly “yes” all the reformers to death to their faces then shut the door, and do what I had always been doing with my students. The conversation I had with my peers rarely focused on pedagogy. I was afraid to show my lack of understanding of the art of teaching. I honestly always thought the people I worked with were so much more advanced as teachers than I.

This first chapter really pointed out so many things that I have experienced. I didn’t know it at the time but all schools are not like this. My currently teaching assignment is one of an empowered staff that work alongside a supportive administration.

3 comments:

Ms. Mayo said...

I also felt really lucky when I read the first chapter. It spelled out so much of what I have seen in other schools, and reminded me of how far ahead we already are. My first thought was, do we really need to read this book? Of course, it serves as a reminder of the good stuff we already have in place, AND points to improvements we can make.

But, Brown...you don't worry about what administrators think? Maybe not in fear of an unsatisfactory observation, but in the same way you want to live up to your colleagues' expectations. I think that's key: we respect our administrators as educators. That was you asking "why did Nigel have to come in at that point in the lesson?," no?!

The open door policy, and the walkthroughs are incredibly powerful. Maybe what we need to figure out is how to get more of that going on.

Mark Wagner said...

Thank you for the invitation to read this blog, I'm not reading the "worth fighting for" trillogy for my current project, but I've just finished the "Change Forces" trillogy, and I'm reading "The New Meaning of Educational Change," which I'll follow with "Leading in a Culture of Change," "The Moral Imperative of School Leadership," "Leadership and Sustainability," and "Breakthrough." Your quotes and reflections help me get a sense of what Fullan was getting at in the earlier book, too.

With respect to this particular quote, I think some of the other reading I am doing for this project might be relevant. My discussion of Fullan preceeds a discussion of Professional Learning Communities, which he mentions in his later books. I look at the work of the DuFours (and their collaborators), Stone & Cuper, Roberts & Pruitt, Wald & Castleberry, and Hord. Having time for teachers to collaborate together - and to be learners first, is absolutely essential.

CUE (Computer Using Educators), a professional organization here in California goes so far as to call their professional developers "Lead Learners" instead of "trainers." I think the same philosophy should apply to teachers in a school. :)

Anonymous said...

First let me apologize for not blogging sooner. I had an unexpected vacation.Ok on to the good stuff..The book. I really enjoyed this book a lot. I am studying to be an administrator, and feel that it's a book that should be read and discussed in ALL administrative classes. I feel that the book touches upon so many things that administration forgets. For example They discuss the lack of understanding from many administrators..."Leadership that neither understands nor involves the teacher is therefore likely to be leadershio that fails." (pg.15) I totally agree. Many schools don't involve teachers in curriculm planning, and don't give educators any choices as to what materials they can incorporate in their classrooms. This can only hinder the creativity of an educator. Also we talk so much about making the material "relevant" to the students. In other words make it meaningful to their lives. However, that same approach is not used when it comes to teachers. This past year I was FORCED to teach a curriculum that I HATED!!! My choices of books were not approved or made available. I felt that my students suffered greatly. When we read the books they and I were interested in things worked out so much better. I was much more exciting in the classroom. The kids knew it and responded with equal enthusiasm (forgive any spelling errors please).
Something else that made me think was the part of the book that discussed those we refer to as "burned out" teachers. I worked with such a great human being this year. The way he spoke just sort of soothed you. His ideas and the way he "would" implement them sounded great.The problem was (just as Fullan and Hargreaves stated in the book) the philosphy is wonderful but not practical. This 18 year veteran knew that. His classroom was total chaos. He felt lucky to get anything accomplished. I was amazed. I didn't understand how a man with such talent and vision didn't have complete command of the classroom. As I said it was not practical for that particular school.
Another thing that caught my interest was when Fullan and Hargreaves discuss the principal as being a "bureaucrat." I call it the Political Principal. We have all been a witness to this type. They sit in their air conditioned office behind a desk pushing papers, making calls, and going to meetings. My old principal would say he wanted the Math and English scores to go up so he could get the 10,000 dollar bonus!! (I swear it's all true ask Wally) There is really little interest in the students, or teachers. So here is the question I leave all you bloggers with. How can we make our administrators not buy into the politics? I mean, they have to attend those meetings right? They also have to observe us. But how do we get them to realize that "punishing" educators only burns them out? Arlene