Showing posts with label administration. Show all posts
Showing posts with label administration. Show all posts

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Teacher well being vs Student benefit

I have argued on occasion that teacher well being is as important as student benefit.  There are times that putting teachers first maintains teaching standards.

Many schools are considering moving the school year start to term three to overcome the issues caused by moving the ATAR exams closer to the term 3 boundary.  Couple this with many classes in year 11/12 being combined, it's an idea that has merit.

When it was floated at our school, I was very much against the idea - to the point that I raised concerns of teachers at school council (I was a council member at the time).  I was concerned that teachers that were tired after getting kids through ATAR exams would not have time to prepare courses in time for the early start and that reporting deadlines would become more onerous.  There was some concern that load was being shifted to senior school staff as year 8 classes would not run until the new year.

In the end, it was not an issue for the mathematics department.
a) The early start reduced the pressure on teachers delivering combined 11/12 courses by adding 8 weeks to the year long course (typically combined 11/12 courses with ATAR exams finish early).
b) The early finish provided extra time for students in year 11 that required re-tests or for collecting late assignments providing extra time for preparing reports (typically stage 1 students).
c) It did prompt us to start programming earlier.
d) It reduced delivery pressure on year 11 courses in other learning areas that were not combined (as they were able to run their exams later in the usually year 11 exam slot week 6 if they with reduced pressure on students as they had completed math exams).
e) Students appreciated the extra time for completing year 12 courses.
f) It reduced behavioural issues typically found in the final weeks of the year and increased attendance.

We finished the year 11/12 courses in term 4 week two this year and started new courses.  This was time typically lost to learning where students were sent home after exams. One stage 3 course is already over half way through the text leaving time for deeper exploration of topics.

This year the majority of teachers are strongly resistant to finishing early and starting the 2013 timetable in 2012.  There are issues with it:

a) Teachers that are joining the school only do so at the start of 2013 (thus classes have temporary teachers).
b) There is insufficient time to plan 2013 courses (it would normally be done in the holidays)
c) Small groups are not operating until 2013 (resulting in difficulties running assessment in 2012)
d) Teachers are tired.
e) It doesn't work for VET subjects (the preferred option is to send them home) because there is only make-do work available.
f) Puts considerable stress on administration to prepare timetables and complete course counselling.
g) Budgets are not accessible for resources required for 2013 programmes of work.

I suppose the only issue I have with the counter arguments is that none of them relate to issues of low student performance or raising attendance.  Many of the issues relate to a lack of planning and preparation time during the year.  I noticed a few teachers had booked planning time (and asked to be kept off the relief time) which seemed a sensible idea.

I doubt the school will continue with the early finish, but mathematics will continue finishing math courses week 2, term 4 if at all possible.  If that can be done without affecting other learning areas that would be great.  If it is deemed that the effect on other learning area and timetabling is too great that will be very unfortunate.

Since mathematics started finishing yr 11 in week 2, year 12 courses have been completed on time, with revision time available (something we had not achieved prior) and results have improved despite an increase in combined courses.  I maintain that we need to find creative ways to provide teaching time to students that typically mature academically later than in higher socio-economic schools and have lower levels of home support.  The earlier year end is something that clearly has made a difference to our mathematics teaching programme.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Promotion to incompetence

Promotion is one of the hardest parts of management and shows where a lack of career counselling can affect a whole organisation. Teaching is no different to many professions where perfectly good(and in some instances great) employees ask for promotion into roles that they are clearly unsuitable for.

Administration roles in teaching carry pay scales above teachers and therefore attract teachers into the role. These roles tend to accumulate all the detritus that teachers don't want (or can't) do. When these roles attract a capable person, the whole school runs more smoothly. This is not an exaggeration, it is a statement of fact. The sad story though is that these roles are typically the ones on paths to promotion so also fail to be stable.

I have no problem with promotional pathways per se (and good staff should be promoted), but I have a problem when people are put into them that are unsuitable. Conflicts seem inevitable, skill sets are sorely lacking and a lack of understanding of what the role entails occurs due to poor internal job descriptions. People bring their own slant to the role upsetting a whole system that works. A clear lack of understanding of how change management occurs (and when these positions are temporary and will revert to the incumbent) and it becomes just another load placed on teachers.

My favourite fails from promoted staff are: managing teachers as students, the I'm right despite all evidence to the contrary statement, aggressive behaviour (oh my goodness, for this there is no excuse from a manager), the I'll disregard your experience because I know this is a better decision(without evidence) and the inevitable push back of work to the classroom.

With state schools paring down due to reduced numbers, the pool of capable people is clearly reducing placing further stress on capable administrators. I'm sure we'll hear the "innovative solutions" mantra reappear, which will translate to mean"do more with less". Saying that, it's also a time of opportunity "if" situations can be identified that will not impact on teaching roles too greatly.

It's at times like these that I think the old HoD role had advantages. Discipline, year leader and curriculum was shared amongst HoDs; administrative roles (below deputy) were clerical and did not call forth large salaries because they were not highly skilled. Staff that could not handle discipline and curriculum could not do HoD roles, those that could were respected within the school as they were sorely needed parts of a working wheel. The capable staff then went on to Deputy and Principal roles (garnering management skills slowly on the way), were less subject to fads (had a healthy dose of scepticism "built in" that required proof of concept before implementation), demanded an understanding of progress in each classroom and enjoyed coming back to the classroom to fill in from time to time.

Staff that have worked effectively in HoD roles are effective educators (whether in English, Phys Ed (no matter how we tease them), in the shed or in Math). I would much rather see these paths further developed than the flat management (treating teaching as a profession without professional pay scales) strategy currently used in many mid/small public schools encouraging staff away from the classroom.


Saturday, September 20, 2008

Teachers in administration roles

From time-to-time teachers get tired and need to get away from the classroom. Administrative roles have provided a haven for teachers, a temporary solution until batteries are recharged. Many positive things can occur when a teacher embraces this opportunity.

Experienced teachers in administrative roles contribute to the school when using their experience to monitor the progress of a whole cohort and use this experience to ensure that courses run are providing the opportunity for students to progress at their optimum rate.

The means mentoring, monitoring and assisting new teachers through their first few years, providing encouragement and new materials to experienced teachers and ensuring that everyone understands the expectations of their role, have clear, workable and achievable outcomes. They also need constant feedback on their progress.

Teachers in administrative roles need to be involved in the delegation of materials and sequences that are workable given their experience at their particular school and of the staff available. This may mean setting specific curricula, assessment, recording frameworks, assessment timetables and monitoring assessment results such as classwork, standardised testing and competition results. Ideas need to be adequately measured for success and they need recognition of the successes of their ideas.

To keep perspective this person must be connected to the classroom and seen as being put in a leadership role. They cannot be doing permanently pastoral roles (for years at a time) as staff in this position quickly become disconnected from students and teacher colleagues when not actively involved in the day-to-day lives of our students. This may mean resuming .6-.8 FTE doing classroom related work and .4-.2 FTE pastoral care work and gently easing back into the classroom as the tiredness wanes and need for teaching a classroom returns.

Unfortunately some now see these 'Level 3' roles as permanent promotional positions as they attract higher wages with little student contact. Good teachers in these positions without the opportunities to do 'good' within the school (such as the tasks listed above) have no positive classroom contact, are only solving pastoral issues and are seen by other teachers as doing administrative trivia are bound to eventually feel isolated and have self esteem/self image problems. Poor teachers without pastoral flair tend to make a mess of the situation, are rewarded for poor classroom performance and cause further issues for genuine classroom teachers.

We need to carefully look at administrative positions, consider how they are used and treat these roles with the care they deserve. Staff in these roles are the glue and grease of a school. With clear goals in mind they can produce wonderful results for teaching staff, students and the school.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Different approaches to supporting teachers

It is interesting to view different teaching styles and different ways of supporting teachers. Support staff such as team leaders and HODs are important parts of school machinery. I've been to a couple of schools and have made a few observations about how these support staff operate.

Type 1: Student focused (Soft and mushy).
The soft and mushy students support person always has the student in the forefront of their mind. They are 'friends' of the student, listen to their grievances and reason through their issues. Issues with this person relate to support of students based on student reporting of incidents especially as students often only relate parts that they remember and conveniently forget negative portions. Positives of this type of support staff is that many issues can become non-issues without further teacher intervention and they can negotiate middle-grounds where teachers and students both feel POV is acknowledged and resolution has been achieved. They also have great rapports with parents. Generally supporters of BMIS management techniques.

Type 2: Authoritative (Firm and stern)
For me, the easiest support person to deal with as many issues are black and white. They will investigate, report and resolve issues. In most cases will lean to the side of the teacher. Negatives is that some students will feel that their POV is not given enough weighting. Positive is that student POV is not given weighting over teacher and holistic classroom position. Middle ground resolution tends to focus on end results and measurable future performance. Generally supporters of the "teacher is boss" type mentality.

Type 3: Administrative (Paper pusher)
This is the worst type to my mind as nothing gets resolved but all paperwork is in order. Chaos tends to follow a support person of this type and responsibility is delegated to anyone but the support person for ultimate resolution of an issue. For specific issues they are often unavailable as they are pursuing "pet" projects. They tend to be active self promoters. The main negative is the sheer amount of unresolved issues pushed back onto teachers - students are not sent to support staff unless an unresolvable issue within the classroom has been encountered and pushing unresolvable situations back to teachers does not help maintain programme momentum. The only positive is that major incidents have well recorded backgrounds. Generally supporters of give anyone the responsibility as long as it is not me.

As I think of more I will add them to the list.

Friday, August 15, 2008

2009 subject selection

Many graduate teachers and even experienced teachers feel some anxiety when it comes to subject selections. It's one of those times where your judgement can make or break the aspirations of a student.

Ultimately school should be a safe place where students feel comfortable to attempt what they previously thought of as impossible. Too safe subject selections will put students into classes that they will not be challenged in and surrounded by students with weak work ethic / too hard subjects will place students at risk as their self esteem takes a pounding.

Teachers feel this pressure. It is important that any conflict over what students should and shouldn't be doing be overcome before students are counselled into their subjects. The issue over 3A MAS/MAT (old Calculus/G&T stream) subject selection has caused much angst as this is a class in small schools typically with less than 14 students (the DET magic number for whether a class will run in 2009) yet also a draw card for top students entering year 8.

The plus side is that theoretically the new level 3 courses have a reduced difficulty level / the downside is that nobody really knows what the exams will look like and how the CAS calculators will alter treatment of certain topics. With very few true mathematics graduates entering teaching, it has been a concern for some time as to who will teach calculus courses in the mid term.

Cases where counsellors and administrators are counselling 'A' students out of level 3 courses due to misconceptions of course difficulty, available staffing levels, questions over quality of recommendations and issues with grades given to students need to be resolved well before the counselling process. Students being told to pursue higher maths by teachers and then convinced otherwise by counsellors is an avoidable situation that requires clear communication from administration what subjects can run and clear guidance on how to guide students forward.

I think schools need to consider whether the prime role of schools is to guide students into their first job (eg. narrow but job focused education) or into lifetime learning (eg. broad pursuit of highest possible education and widest vocational choice). Where schools assume a split role (eg schools with strong competing VET & TEE courses) close attention needs to be made over who is part of the counselling process and their mandate in giving subject advice and applying/overriding teaching or vocational recommendations.