The Times Union did better today but still didn’t quite get it right. It was as if bright freshmen wrote the piece. They hit some bullet points but failed to get behind the issues that experience and direct knowledge would have allowed. They contradicted themself (from an earlier piece) and then they closed with a bit of brilliance.
I want to start with the ironic part first, the editor wrote, “One of the difficulties nationally is that teachers are not properly trained” and, “Each class has a personality. It takes years for teachers to adjust to those differences.”
Wow and this on the heels of the editorial where the Times Union gushingly wrote about Teach for America. If you didn’t know it Teach for America takes non-education majors gives them two weeks of training and then for twenty-four hundred dollars a pop places them in the nations most struggling schools. Duval County recently decided to bring about a hundred a year.
The editor then when on to talk about how important a principal is to the running of a school and how they should be a master teacher. I liken a principal to a quarterback; schools can still be successful with bad ones but it makes the teacher’s job lot harder. In Duval we have many principals that have one trick in their bag and that’s to shake up teachers. Not to say there aren’t wonderful principals but I hear so many stories of principals micromanaging, bullying, playing favorites and talking to teachers in a fashion that would get teachers in trouble if they talked that way to students that I sometimes wonder just how many great principals we have. There is an old joke about principals in the county and that’s, it’s now what you can do but who you know that gets them the job. And you are right it’s not that funny.
The principal however at the end of the day is just one person and I think our real failing as a district comes form our assistant principals and again this isn’t to say there aren’t many wonderful ones but this is a group, one or two at an elementary school or five or six at a high school that can really make or break a school.
There are assistant principals whom are doing a disservice to their schools. This new wave of APs only spent a cup of a coffee in the classroom before them passing a test allowed them to move out. Its not more responsibility they are looking for it’s less because nobody has more responsibility that a classroom teacher but more power they desire. All over the county 30 year olds with three or four years of teaching experiencing our exercising their wills on veteran teachers. There needs to be a better way.
Leaders need to be recruited, cultivated and nurtured just like our children do. In every school there are a handful of teachers that the other teachers look up to, that they go to when they need help, have questions or need a shoulder to rest their tired heads upon. They are looked up to and respected and some of the best teachers around, the ones that will only be pulled kicking and screaming from the classroom. They are the master teachers the Times Union wrote about and they should be recruited to be our principals and vice principals rather than somebody whose only desire to is to get out of the classroom and whose only real qualification s they can pass a few tests.
Finally the Times Union absolutely hit the nail on the head when they wrote, That is why simplistic answers to education are usually wrong ones. And the solutions du jour, charter schools, vouchers, virtual schools, opportunity scholarships, Teach for America, high stakes standardized testing are hurting education. They are what a bright freshmen devoid of experience and direct knowledge might come up with.