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- Keeping Your Teaching Real: A Teacher's Role - March 11, 2018
- Sketch Notes in the Elementary Classroom - February 15, 2017
- Teach From the Heart - February 9, 2017
- Who is the Teacher: School or Family? - January 11, 2017
- Dear President Elect Trump, From Your Teachers - November 17, 2016
- Let them Be Children - October 21, 2016
- Print Resources: Great Tools for Kids - October 17, 2016
By: Lori Rice & Jake Miller
In our previous installments of 10 Ways to Fix Education, we focused on providing teachers more teaching time. For quality work to occur quality planning and reflection are an important part of the process. Today we’re here to talk for the need to stop the revolving door. Just like kids playing with the revolving door of an airport, a continuous cycle in and out of the door does not keep them out of the building. It does not keep them out of the parking lot. It does not keep them out of the plane. Heck, they’re barely in the building before they’re not again.
Today, that seems to be the case with many administrators. According to an article by Edward J. Fuller published by National Education Policy Center, “research has shown that high principal turnover often leads to greater teacher turnover (Béteille et al., 2011;Fuller et al.2007) which, in turn, can have a negative impact on student achievement and other schooling outcomes (Ronfeldt et al., 2011; Fuller et al.2007), as well as increase fiscal costs (Levy et al., 2006).”* To read the entire article Examining Principal Turnover click here.
One of the most veteran teachers at the school I teach at adopted a policy of, “If I stand firm long enough, I’ll outlast this principal.” It’s hard to fault them. Each new administrator that is hired quickly develops their own personal agenda to improve the school. It’s hard to fault them for doing that, as it’s part of the job description. However, when a 35-year veteran teacher has worked under the guidance of 15 principals in that time, they’ve probably seen the full gamut of educational reform. That same 35-year veteran teacher referred to it as “the pendulum theory” – every one of these reforms comes back around.
“Just wait,” he said, “the next principal’s going to try this.” Lo and behold, the next one did.
And the turnover at the district level, especially for superintendents? It’s just as – if not more – volatile.
We at The Educator’s Room think that there should be some incentive for administrators seeing their visions through – completely. I’ve currently been serving with the same duo of principals for the last 3 years, an almost unheard of repertoire in my school district. While teachers don’t agree with everything in their vision, they trust in it. They have the ability to place their faith in the changes being the benefit of children – and teachers, for that matter. It’s a great sight to behold.
Otherwise mobile administrators just ruffle feathers, try, and move on to the next best thing. They leave behind a group of teachers who become more skeptical with each new administrator “leading” them.
In fact, the revolving front office door does more than that – it makes for revolving doors elsewhere
Administrators, whether they come, go, or stay, are a small piece of the educational puzzle. Recruiting, supporting, and sustaining quality educators in the classroom are all paramount in making our schools better. We must also look at this revolving door and provide what is needed for educators to stop the revolving door in classrooms.
Education by design invites a revolving door. Educators can secure jobs anywhere, so if a spouse or significant other is moving, educators can find a new job in the new location. As a nation, though, we have set things up to encourage educators to leave. Teachers are the scapegoats for all our nation’s problems. They are asked to do more with less. They are told to test students more. They are told to stop “teaching” and produce. They are told they always need to do more. They are disrespected on many levels and not treated as the professionals they are. The perception of educators must be changed in our nation to reflect they are valued and important citizens doing our most important work.
Schools have a large hand in holding open this revolving door as well. Mentor programs have been established in many districts over the past 10 years, but they are a labor of paperwork and tracking conversations. Districts are filled with good teachers, of that I am certain. Schools need to find ways to cover classes of new teachers and teachers working on specific goals to watch these professionals. Allow them to go into classrooms in their school and observe high-level questioning. Allow them to go into the classroom and watch conceptual based mathematics, inquiry-based science, and guided reading. New teachers should be inside classrooms with veteran teachers who are in the trenches making positive impacts on students’ lives. Hire substitute teachers, use principals, have curriculum directors come in and cover; find a way to allow new teachers to watch the experts, have conversations with them. Not only does this allow you to strengthen the new teachers set of skills, it shows veteran teacher they are valuable, they are important, they are respected, and what they do matters.
In addition, there’s a revolving door of students who bounce from school to school and are among our nation’s most underperforming, least cared for population. The implementation of the common core as a national set of standards addresses this need to form a coherent set of curriculum for these students and families roaming from school to school, city to city, state to state searching for home. This is a small step in bridging the educational gap created by the revolving door of students.
When a new kid comes into the classroom they need help. Schools need the resources and manpower to set up mentoring programs to assist these students in the transition. A student mentor program would address questions of how are you fitting in? What do you need? What did you do at your last school similar to this? How does that help you learn? Where are the gaps and how can we help you fill them? How is your family settling into the new community? What do they need? A feeling of belonging is necessary on the hierarchy of needs. Feeling valued and like they fit into the new environment will have a positive impact on new students as they revolve through classroom, schools, neighborhoods, and states.
The revolving door also creates a need for a catch-up period. New students should have a block of time protected in their schedule to be able to review curriculum that has already been covered. This would allow them to have time to focus on their learning and feel support. A resource room, study skills class, or a home base that is designed to answer questions and provide time to see what they have missed is something lacking to new students in new environments.
So Where Do We Go From Here?
We’re proposing several solutions to the revolving door. There are solutions that can be addressed at the classroom level, local level, state level, and beyond.
- Create and maintain a fully professional environment where administrators, teachers, and students all have a say and all have the opportunity to have their voices heard.
- Encourage and support a PTO program in every school that is empowered to help solve school problems, such as the revolving door by providing the resources needed.
- Stop making balloon buy-outs and golden parachutes for administrators; if they choose to leave early or have poor performances, the districts should not be expected to pad their salary like a CEO.
- Have administrators sign an initiative-free first year, just to observe and collect information before slinging solutions like hotcakes.
- Require administrators to teach in a classroom periodically to allow them to understand how to support and protect their teachers.
- Continue to have long-term rewards for teachers that teach in revolving (many low SES, high poverty) schools, such as loan forgiveness.
- Roll back the excessive expectations, standards, and programs that are creating such an anxiety attack across education that even students are overtly affected.
- Create and maintain mentor programs to support new teachers for two years in the classroom.
- Allow opportunities for veteran teachers to model and demonstrate quality lessons and teaching methods. Celebrate your staff to build appreciation.
- Build off of Maslow’s Hierarchy of learning; students who don’t feel safe at home and don’t have regular meals (the lower rung of the order) cannot be expected to learn (the highest rung) without being provided for first.
- Create statewide/countywide databases of transient student populations.
- Create Child Study Teams for students deemed highly transient, and offer them a mentor/buddy to guide them and make them feel welcome.
- To become a better nation we must support our future. Supporting administrators, educators and students will create a better society and is an important place to focus our time, money and resources to have a positive impact on the future citizens in our communities. When we find ways to stop the revolving door and create positive, inviting schools our future will see that impact.
*Fuller, Edward J. "Examining Principal Turnover." National Education Policy Center. N.p., 17 July 2012. Web. 06 Feb. 2014.