Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Class centric schools

Last post I talked about making a class rather than a group of individuals and how that was important to how I tried to teach.  It reminded me of a large organisation that I did work for.  They changed the name of their administration centre to store service centre (or something like that) to change the thinking in the organisation from an administration 'ruling' the stores, to a service model where they were enablers that assisted stores to sell more product.

The admin vs teachers conflict is a common enough malady and sometimes I think I understand why.  Empire building is not uncommon and importance is placed upon being a gatekeeper for projects to become viable  - goodwill needs to be developed before a project is considered.  Multiple consultations are required before a project can get the go ahead and if someone steps outside of unwritten rules, the project leader is sent back to their classroom tails between their legs after doing considerable work to check that the project is both viable and has clear student support and benefit.  I have no problem with the gate, it's the pre-requisite of goodwill that is the problem.

This scenario is a recipe for reduced initiative and is quite clearly poor management.  An alternate method is to encourage the person seeking the initiative (if valuable) and then assisting in enabling the person make the event happen, to mutually decide it is unviable or send the idea to the third umpire.  Encouragement of initiative is a quality of a good manager.  Let's face it, rarely is a student event fun for teachers - but the kids get a lot out of well run events and it is something that they remember well after school (let's hope for the right reasons).

I like projects that can run with little assistance from admin as I tend to think there are things done best by teachers and other things done best by administration.  I think, a project that can be run without generating large amounts of cooperation from 9 members of a committee is more likely to succeed. I normally accompany committee involvement with a swear word - a small skilled selected team is nearly always a far more effective method than a voluntary committee.  Maths Academy, Summer school, board game clubs, the edmodo rollout, the IWBs rollout, 8-12 integrated maths programmes, creation of the maths lab, centralised marksbooks, programmes, newsletters, assessment and electronic resources are all initiatives that were able to be done with little if any admin assistance.  All of these Maths Dept initiatives had clear and purposeful gains for the school as evidenced by the development of a changed profile for year 11 and 12 MAT and MAS classes.

As a team there are things we cannot do, that admin can.  Streaming in year 9, pastoral care intervention, school direction, staffing profiles, funding and the like.  These things have large impacts on the classroom and to be honest we are better reacting to most of these than being involved in these decision making process.  We can have input but probably informal discussion is enough.  Long drawn out processes help no-one where a little leadership of both teams can make a decision happen.  In many cases even a sub optimal solution is better than developing a perfect one (after the need for it or benefit has passed).

In a class centric environment, if the teacher has evaluated that an event is in the best interests of students and a teacher is willing to assist making it happen (in addition to their normal roles as a classroom teacher) it is incredibly poor form to be anything other than encouraging and assisting to make things happen.  When we fail to do this, we need to ask, is it in the best interest of the school, the class and subsequently is it in the best interest of students.


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