Friday, May 29, 2009

Empowerment and Self-Worth

An education headline reads "Do Teachers Lack Power and Self-Worth?"

If the article is as thought-provoking as the headline, there will probably be another post coming. However, two events occurred yesterday that answer the questions with a resounding "YES!"

In our staff meeting yesterday, Fearless Leader (okay, Lame Duck) informed us that the district was working on a new marketing plan because we are losing so many students to charter schools. She asked for input but, as usual, did not listen to or record any of our comments, and I highly doubt that she transmitted any information to whomever instructed her to ask.

Most of our comments sounded remarkably familiar, considering how often student loss comes up in conversation. We said, as usual, that if district schools were better, marketing would not be a problem. Our school has a waiting list longer than our incoming class roster, and district personnel work really hard to get their kids into our classes. We don't send out any marketing beyond what all of the middle schools do, but we have no problem getting students to sign up for the admission lottery. If a school has high expectations, quality teachers, and a strong community, nobody will feel the need to drive across town to a charter schools.

For the record, I don't have anything against charter schools. They're doing good things.

One major step toward raising student success is increasing teacher quality. This district has seen a number of passionate, intelligent, hard-working employees, but the lack of respect for teachers drives many people to the welcoming arms of neighboring school districts. Here are just a few examples of this lack of respect:
  • I already mentioned the farce at the staff meeting. Especially before the change in district administration, teachers never had any reason to believe that "They" listened to our input.
  • Contract negotiations have never gone smoothly. If teachers were paid a decent salary, the profession might attract more quality individuals and create real competition for jobs, and we can't have that! Teaching is a mission, and calling, and only doormats need apply.
  • Last night, we had our awards banquet. District personnel gave the typical speeches "Appreciate blah blah blah dedication blah blah blah children blah blah blah future blah blah blah please bus your own tables before the program starts blah blah blah..." REALLY? Somehow, I doubt the Cisco employees bus their own tables at their awards banquets, and if the same request were made of Apple or Adobe employees, the foolish person would be laughed out of the building.
Students at our school are proud of what we have, and they talk about it. The same phenomonen would undoubtedly transpire in our school district if everyone felt the same pride for their schools.

Now, we have seen changes in the district recently, and the marketing plan has already produced a brochure highlighting the district's best assets, small schools. We've also seen an increased interest in supporting the "pockets of excellence" throughout the district, rather than the previous policy of crushing innovation in order to retain every ounce of power possible. Unfortunately, old habits die hard, and the new bigwigs are going to have to work twice as hard to overcome the almost-irreparable damage done by the previous administration. When everyone has the resources and support to innovate and achieve, then we'll have something to market. I'm confident that we'll get there, but it's going to take more than asinine queries from a Lame Duck.

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