Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Developing a school vs developing teachers

When I entered teaching, my aim was to make a lasting difference in whatever school I was in. This meant contributing to the school, not just my own personal knowledge and skills. To do this I was always on the lookout for ways to create things that could exist long after I had left. Being a bit of an idealist this is still my aim, but at this time of year you always feel a little jaded.

My first efforts at lasting difference were failures as I started out by looking for people with similar aims. Sadly I didn't find any and fried myself trying on my own.

Then I found a few people that were willing to try. .. and we started a few things. We were successful and used these things we created to better our teaching. Better recording and analysis of data, better learning environments, better access to past tests and assignments, better teaching resources, better systems, better programming. We shared ideas freely, had open door policies and observed each others classes, team taught in term 4 when load reduced, developed practicum teachers. Things that made a school a better place to learn and teach.

...but sadly, the education system does not value these ideas. Long term ideas that might take years to bear fruit are subsumed by the immediate need for NAPLAN success, staffing ratios, student graduation figures and the like (and when success comes, credit is claimed by those with no evidence of involvement whatsoever!).

Why is personal knowledge king and information sharing rare? Why is systemic improvement or ongoing curriculum improvement not a priority? Why is the absence of issues an indicator of good practice? How can curriculum be lead by those that do not teach, are out of learning area, have not taught or do not like to teach? How is being good at something a great reason for promotion into something you have no experience in, especially where experienced people do exist to fulfil the role? Why are good young staff undervalued and are being replaced by teachers less qualified and/or unable/unwilling to maintain full load due to EIP? Why does capacity building take a backseat to growing and protecting fiefdoms? Why is there a growing gap between middle school performance and upper school academic requirements? Why is communication so poor between teachers?

Why are the answers to these questions seen as too complex to attempt finding solutions?

This is wrong.

By focusing on building strong vibrant supported teams, we can create learning environments that do wonderful things for our kids. We can build schools that we are proud of, that kids are proud of, and that the community is proud of.

This is right.

It is that black and white.

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