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Old 07-09-2008, 08:03 PM   #31
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My school is based on the Professional Learning Community format. AS principal, I am there more as a facilitator. There are non-negotiables that I will step in and be the boss if I have to.

To be a professional learning community you need leadership at the top that is not into control. I have committees set up for almost every concept imaginable. I have a school council comprised of parents and teachers that are involved with decisions involving the running of the school.

More often than not, I am trying to keep up with them. Generally, I present the staff with DATA to demonstrate there is a problem. For example, I felt that from my observations science/ social studies was not being taught effectively. Because there is no standardized test until grade 5 (my school goes to grade 4) there is no pressure to change anything. I presented the staff with four years of grade 5 data broken out by the seven elementary schools that demonstrated our students were not performing as well as the other schools grade five students. Since that staff meeting, my staff has developed a strategy to change this. The solution did not come from me, the prinicpal sitting on top of the throne. I said, these results are not where I think we should be as a community. What are we going to do about it? They came to me with the plan, and I am there to support it, or ask them to revisit it. I am not there to give them the solution, they are there in the trenches, and if it comes from them, it means more than me saying you need to do a, b, and c. I do not care how they get there, as long as they are following the plan and our results change in the next three years.

I also gave up staff meeting time to support their initiatives. Not ONCE did I regret it. They used the time like it was a treasure to accomplish objectives to make the school a success for children.

One other thing that has become part of the culture is they are working together to develop lessons and common assessments at their grade levels to measure what they are teaching. They are responsible for demonstrating an action plan if the standard they taught was not learned. AS a team, they work together to remediate if necessary and provide enrichment to those that have learned it. There is a set 1/2 hour in the day when every sped, title one, remedial reading teacher comes to a grade level to help with the intervention or enrichment of students. This gives multiple opportunities for small group instruction.

I believe that ALL of the best initiatives have to come from within a school community. I think that is the way to build meaningful change in a school.

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Teacher prep - ugh - I would say, that the mentoring program is essential. Having expert teachers who are willing to share their ideas and strategies with new teachers is essential. I find the student teacher program in Massachusetts to be ridiculous. Teachers have TWO weeks of running a classroom on their own. That is insane. You cannot learn it in two weeks. PERIOD. Ideally, new teachers need to have a mentor that can observe them weekly, provide feedback, and make suggestions. You also need principals who can get their asses out from behind the desk and be in the classrooms providing feedback to rookie teachers, in a non threatening manner. This past year, I spent quite a bit of time working to support a new teacher who had classroom management issues. I was not there judging threatening, but supporting.

Again, I am not a typical principal. My staff and students see me three to four times a week in the classroom. I refuse to let the paperwork pull me from what I feel is important.
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Old 07-09-2008, 08:11 PM   #32
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What do you think of merit pay for administrators?
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Old 07-09-2008, 08:43 PM   #33
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Originally Posted by MadelynIris View Post
What do you think of merit pay for administrators?
I would be against that as well. If you are talking combat pay for going into schools that have a challenging demographic, I would say yes, but I would apply it to teachers as well.

I have a performance bonus in my contract for meeting goals. I do not find it motivating, and quite honestly, I find it annoying. Pay me for the job I do, I would be doing these things anyway.
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Old 07-09-2008, 09:32 PM   #34
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Dread, Amy, Martha, WildHoney (and any other teachers on this forum), did you feel your teacher training adequately prepared you to manage a classroom? I don't remember much about my own management classes. The things that helped me the most were two master teachers (one teacher I worked with while teaching on the remote island of Chuuk--imagine moving the inner city to a small tropical island and you get the idea.
I'm just wondering what your take is on how effective our teacher training programs are in this crucial area.
What does your training in the US consist of? Northern Ireland doesn't have a shortage of teachers and there aren't very many jobs. There aren't many places on the teacher training course and you have to do interviews before you're offered a place. You also need a degree and you usually need to have been working in a school before you apply.

We spend six months in two different schools and every couple of weeks our university tutor has to do a surprise visit to write a report on the lesson they have watched and inspect the dreaded teaching file. We had to fill that with lesson plans, 3 pages per lesson , and resources we made. Each time you have a visit you get a grade and they go towards a final grade. You aren't told the grade but if you get below a C/50% you'd have to spend time at another school before you could qualify. We also did 5 essays - at Masters level - and an IT portfolio.

We do spend some time at university but the lectures provided some information about the essay topics (which focused on the law, changes in the curriculum and types of assessment) and we spent class time preparing things for after we qualify or reading articles. We got one talk from a teacher about discipline and it ended up being a lecture on how to mark an essay.

Quote:
Management is such a vital issue. If you can't manage the classroom it really doesn't matter what other kinds of skills you have.


I definitely agree with this. The first place I was at was completely mad. The first time my tutor came out I told the pupils to sit down but they all sat on the floor and wouldn't get up. The reports I had from her when I was at that school tended to be very negative and I always felt it was mainly because I had no idea about how to manage the classes. I was terrified to begin with and kids just picked up on that. I had no idea what I was doing. We weren't given any time to prepare for starting in our first schools, just told we'd learn a lot and hopefully we wouldn't drop out

I didn't choose the schools I went to and the second one was very academic. I was constantly told about how important it was that they did well in their exams and the teachers had told me how long I should spend on each topic and were always making sure I wasn't falling behind. I knew I had to have control of the classes the first day I started there because I couldn't let any bad behaviour get in the way of what they had to be learning. There wasn't time for messing about. Suddenly my reports were positive, reading the first ones compared to them is amazing. The new tutor I had was saying I was very easy-going and relaxed. I was always tense and nervous in the other place.

I really think the change was because I had learnt so much at the first school. I was lucky to have an amazing mentor. At the start I didn't feel like I would get along with her, she never spoke to me. One day I told her I wanted to do something to help me feel like I could cope better with the classes and from then she was amazing. I had two of her classes and she would always give me feedback. Once a week she'd give me written feedback too. Always willing to give advice about anything I was worried about. She encouraged me to keep studying after I had qualified and was always sending me home with books she thought would help me. I can't praise her enough. She was really kind to me and did so much for me. I still keep in touch with her now.

Despite the horror stories about lack of work I did get offered a temporary job here. We decided to move to the country where my fiance is from though. I have found a job at an international school there so I start in just over a month. I am absolutely petrified. I'm worried about how I'm going to manage. There's still so much I need to learn. I don't feel ready at all. When I said I wanted to be a teacher everyone tried putting me off, especially my parents. Even though I complained a lot this year, mainly because I never got much sleep, I really loved it. I would have been very disappointed if I hadn't found a job. I honestly don't know how someone could go through the training if they didn't really want to be a teacher.
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Old 07-10-2008, 12:49 AM   #35
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Something that also needs to be raised when discussing this matter is how testing is carried out, and to what cost.

I am by no means an expert, but when I wanted to decide whether or not I wanted to get into teaching as a profession I sought out some of the reading for the teacher's college program at my university, and the results cemented a definitive 'no' decision in my mind. I can provide a list of books if anyone's interested.

Governments are incredibly fond of citing tests, test results, testing, etc, and faulting the teachers -- but the whole testing process is flawed. Unforgivably so.

To digress on that point: standardized tests aren't strictly curricular insofar as questions deemed 'too easy' by the sample group (ie, ones that most students got right) are thrown out, and the tests are designed to have a certain mean before anyone starts writing them. So, to expand, it essentially means that a perfect score is next-to impossible, implying that teachers and students will always have room to improve, which while it isn't false it is pretty convenient for a company who is being paid to evaluate the progress of education and can then demonstrate a need for continued testing. The point is, they aren't designed to punctuate the successes, they're designed to highlight the flaws -- and these flaws largely exist in the socio-economic realm, and the realm of the flaws in the tests themselves. Apart from that, the 'knowledge' tested is largely prejudicial insofar as that which is being defined as 'knowledge' is a collection of questions loosely-at-best associated with understanding a collection of processes and facts by a group of people who are certainly not representative of or qualified to judge society's knowledge as a whole. Social knowledge, which will aid any student in their daily lives, is a non-subject. Fiscal knowledge, which is essential to living in a world inextricably tied to economics is a non-subject. Multiple choice fails to evaluate processes, only answers, and since test results are not returned in detail to students with suggested areas of improvement, ways to increase understanding, or even a diagnosis of what went misunderstood, there's absolutely zero benefit to the child. Ability to understand, which is the larger point of learning, is not what's being accessed by these tests. Sure, some understanding must exist in those children who generally do well, but if you force repetition on enough kids they'll get it by pure memorization alone and then will fail utterly at understanding more involved processes -- results will look good, initially, and then will plunge sharply.

Furthermore, when high-stakes are attached to these tests (teacher rewards/punishments, student rewards/punishments) a whole set of peripheral problems come up re: cheating. Since teachers are only responsible for 8 months of a child's education, and yet test results would fault/credit them for the abilities of the child as of that point in time which is a totally erroneous measure of that teacher's worth since the student is the product of all their prior experiences and not just that teacher's term. Most learning takes place at home, since this is where youth spend most of their time, and despite any efforts of a teacher they will never replace in 8 months what a parent can do over a child's life. How much responsibility should be on the teacher over something that largely escapes their realm of control? More to the point, what incentives do they have to punish cheating students or oversee a test run with integrity, when they will be blamed for failures? Conversely, what do they have to fear if they cheat when poor results will be punished anyway? That's punishment on one hand if they don't cheat at all, punishment on the other if they cheat and get caught, but the chance for rewards if they do it and don't get caught? It's absurd.

Besides all that, which I think are wholly significant problems, the testing process is ridiculous for another reason: when do you, ever, in your life, get put into a situation where you're forced to perform a set of disjoint tasks within a largely restrictive timeframe and environment, where you aren't allowed to consult resources or peers, and the outcome of which may have significant ramifications on how the rest of your life proceeds? Unless you're an emergency worker, my suggestion is: it won't happen to you very friggin often. If you were in a situation like this, would stress affect your performance? You're darn right it would. Yet we do this to kids and to make matters worse, with the way education is going, they want to test kids every year. Because then they'd have more results and could better judge why teachers and students are failures. Because clearly the problem is limited to student stupidity or teacher incompetence.

Yet, despite all these issues, this is what we're basing our decisions for the future on. If the parent's don't know this, though, and don't get involved in the education of their children, it'll just continue and we'll waste millions, billions even on testing totally irrelevant to improving the quality of education.


Now, don't get me wrong. There are bad teachers out there, lots of them. Do they need to be evaluated, held to some sort of professional standard, etc? Sure they do, but testing isn't the way to do it. By no means does my support lie behind teachers, but neither does it lie with harming students by continuing the bullshit involved in this ever-expanding process of "improving" education by means of not addressing education in any meaningful way.
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Old 07-13-2008, 02:02 PM   #36
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I totally didn't mean to threadkill. Sorry.
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