Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Attempting to Break the Stereotype

You've heard the jokes and been privy to the stereotypes. If you want an "easy" job, become a teacher so you get to have a million vacations and summers off.

I do not fit into the stereotype. Rather I'm counting down to the beginning of the school year.

Granted, with the first day of school comes a limited freedom for me and exceptional more work. I enjoy my summers with my two children. I use much of my summer to educate myself attending various webinars and reading a plethora of articles.  I take pleasure in being able to sleep later than the sunrise and indulge in a television show here or there.

However, my teacher-heart lives for the 180 days I get to interact with teachers and students in the hallways and classrooms. The end-of-summer advertised school supply specials make me feel invigorated. Something about starting with a clean slate for both the teacher and student exhilarates me.

In the ten years I've been an educator, I have encountered a number in the profession who view the summer vacation as a time to recharge, reflect, and renew just like me. The 2 months off are a great time to improve in the craft of teaching. Unfortunately, I have met plenty of other types of teachers who live from one vacation/break to the next simply enduring the teaching days in between. In my opinion, this attitude will impact the classrooms involved in spreading a general negativity.

Is there anything I can do as an educational leader to help encourage the drive and desire to grow and change and then enjoy the days of teaching? What steps can be taken to make school fun for both teachers and students? How can we change the stereotype the world has about the education profession? What can we do to ensure that the students become life-long learners?

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

If You Don't Feed the Teachers, They Eat the Students!

For the past four summers, I have read the same book. It is my go-to book for self-evaluation and reassessment as a school administrator. If You Don't Feed the Teachers, They Eat the Students! by Neila A. Connors, Ph.D. allows me to accomplish both of these tasks. The premise of the book is that administrators need to be active in their encouragement and nurturing of teachers or the entire school and student body will suffer.

If You Don't Feed the Teachers They Eat the Students: Guide to Success for Administrators and Teachers (Kids' Stuff)
By way of a "book review" I will say that Connors is a creative writer, always connecting her concepts back to a restaurant environment. The advice is very practical yet poignant. There are times I feel that Connors tries too hard to force the restaurant theme by creating acronyms for everything. The fact that there is a glossary for the acronyms is evidence that there may be too many. However, since I've read the book now four times, I obviously value the messages therein.

During this summer's reading, I came to several realizations. 
1. I am only responsible for myself. I cannot change the overall vision or mission of the school where I work. I cannot change every aspect of how things are done. However, I can change my outlook, attitude, and the way I personally do my job.
2. I need to hold true to what I personally value as I interact with the teachers in our school rather than allowing my frustrations and busyness to interfere.

While reevaluating my role and job, I set eight goals for the 2012-2013 school year. Many of these are frequent goals for several years, but I need to put forth more energy into accomplishing them and remaining consistent.
1. Spend more time in the classrooms and hallways... less time in my office.
2. Find creative ways to encourage the teachers and staff for a job well done.
3. Plan at least two fun faculty outings during the school year.
4. Take time to care for myself - physically, spiritually, emotionally, mentally.
5. Find 2-3 manageable meaningful tasks to complete each day.
6. Communicate more often and more clearly with faculty and staff.
7. Create (and abide by) a personal organization plan.
8. Schedule on the first day of every month a time to reflect on my goals and accomplishments from the previous month. Then adjust! 

Fellow administrators - I highly encourage you to read this book. What are some of your goals for the upcoming school year?

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Test Scores

Well, the scores are in. All five of my AP English Literature students passed the exam with a 3 or higher. I am very proud of them and quite relieved.

I admit I've had butterflies in my stomach leading up to the release of scores. Which got me thinking...

I am blessed that my job does not depend upon my students' scores. But what if, like so many educators in schools around this nation, it did?

I attempted to prepare my students for the exam as much as humanly possible. I admit it was difficult at times due to several factors: scheduling, the constant fight against senioritis, and an overall relaxed academic environment. I pushed, and they pushed back. When test day came, I knew what scores each student was most capable of receiving, but I couldn't enter the exam room with them. They were on their own.

When there are so many factors, why is it that the value of teachers is solely judged by test scores? I long for a change in the system that puts the needs of students first and judges the teacher by various criterion...which includes test scores but also encompasses so much more. Any human being would want to be judged on more than just one aspect of a job, position, interaction, etc. Teachers deserve an opportunity to prove themselves in various ways.