We use guest teaching as a way to actualise Planning Retreats. In order to get the teachers out of the classroom for the day to consider the bigger picture we rely largely on our Teaching Assistants. However, in order to give them the support they need my principal and I take a few periods within each class and become the guest teachers. It is an opportunity to get to know the students and the curriculum from the perspective of the classroom and the learners. It keeps me in touch with the dynamic nature of a lesson and the curiosities of the students. It allows me a window into each grade level and the ability to connect more with the teachers. In a nutshell – it’s amazing!!!
And through this I have come to reflect on the disconnect between teachers, administrators, students and the school. Why don’t more administrators go into the classroom? And what is lost by the distance from the students and the learning? But in that same thought I also wonder about why teachers aren’t more involved in strategic planning and developing thoughtful change within schools? Should there be more of a balance?
I believe the experiences of teaching in the classroom are crucial to my ability to facilitate curriculum development. And I do not want to lose touch with those learning moments. I worry that if I were to remain entirely out of the classroom that there could be a disconnect from the experience of teaching, and a loss in the ability to make meaningful and effective changes.
This leads me to consider more about those plans for change within a school. I wonder how teachers can be more involved in these discussions. I would like to consider how teachers can have more of a voice in visionary plans, in strategic design. Their experiences in the classroom and with the students are an invaluable part of any school’s design thinking.
I read an article in US News and World Report about teachers’ perspectives on voice and on school leadership:
An April report released by Gallup showed that on two survey questions, teachers were the least likely of any profession to respond positively: whether they feel their opinions count at work, and whether their supervisor creates an “open and trusting environment.”
Studies have shown that school leadership is second only to teaching among factors that can affect student learning…
How can we make schools more collaborative and honor the voice of all members of our community to give everyone the chance to be a leader in some situations and a learner in others? How can we design schools where educators decide what’s best for their students? And where would this time come from? Already teachers are stretched and administrators are extended to their limits. How can we get admin into the classroom and teachers into strategic planning?
My school currently offers us early release on Wednesdays so teachers can receive professional development from 2:30-4:15. Some of those Wednesdays are used for staff meetings and committee meetings. But because that time is shared and therefor limited it becomes difficult for anything to be truly accomplished (as far as strategic thinking and action is concerned). So much of the plans and vision end up falling back again into the hands of administrators or not completed at all. But what if school were to start late on Mondays, say 10:00, and for those 2 hours before students arrive teachers took part in school led professional development. Then Wednesday could become a full school day but the 3:00-4:15 time could be dedicated to committee meetings for strategic planning giving teachers a voice, and time.
Could teacher committees be a part of hiring, budgets, policy writing, building and furniture plans/designs? Do principals have to be the authoritarian figure maintaining student behavior and teacher evaluations? What other responsibilities could be rearranged to make roles more equal?
Would this allow for more voices at the table when considering change and planning for the vision of the school? Would it make a school more effective? And could this lighten some of the load for administrators allowing them time to get into the classroom more often? What other responsibilities could be shifted between the roles at school?
In my next post I’d like to look at re-envisioning teacher evaluations… in the meantime do you have ideas about how to involve teachers in leading and administrators in teaching? Do you think we should?