Thursday, June 3, 2010

I Forgot What It Means to Teach

Overheard, “Fourteen years ago I had a friend leave the district. She said I’ve been there so long I almost forgot what it meant to teach.” ­

What if she isn’t really teaching where she is now either?

I work in a poor and underperforming district. What if the low-skills and lack of discipline isn’t just a symptom of the neighborhood but a symptom of the teaching.

This isn’t to say we don’t have great teachers. But the honest truth is that our district and others like it are often used as a stepping-stone. Good teachers are often gone just as they are beginning to show a bit of return on investment. While less than stellar teachers might be kept around because they are the only ones willing to teach.

Non-educators may not realize that teachers, like you would in any other profession, apply for jobs at the best schools first, then move down the list. During a normal year it is a common occurrence for some school districts to have openings pop up in late August as teachers suddenly quit after finding a job at another school district.

This is one of those school districts. It isn’t just the teachers. It’s the administrators, the parents, even the students. Not enough quality educators actually want to be here. And sometimes even when they do want to be here ten of so years down the line they might decide that they have had enough.

Working for a difficult district requires a lot of patience, it requires extraordinary hard work, it often requires leaders to stop and rebuild their teams again and again every two or three years.

The problem is school improvement requires long periods of consistent direction. When the leader is promoted, or moves out of district, when the team members turnover on a regular basis, when upper management drops their support, or just doesn’t support you at all, creating long lasting positive change becomes almost impossible.

So how do we create long lasting positive change?


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