The following was submitted by a veteran LYS principal who is leading her third significant turn around of a struggling school (this one a large high school).
“We had a union meeting last Friday. Teachers met with union reps to discuss their gripes and concerns. I received feedback this morning from some friendly teachers.
To put this into context, I have probably written close to 100 directives this year. Most of the directives are for policy violations, failure to follow established procedures, or no instruction in the classroom. Real black and white issues, but the volume is disappointingly high. I really thought that the majority teacher complaints would come from the sudden increase in directives being written, but this is not a real sore spot.
The biggest gripe seems to be stemming from the increase in instructional conversations. I have instructional coaches that do almost all of the instructional conversations and they are getting the blunt end of the teacher attacks. What makes this particularly interesting is that the instructional coaches are technically teachers, and are in fact union members themselves. Also, there are four of them, so this isn’t a personality issue with just one person.
I have noticed that here, as in my previous two schools, that the real heat starts when the instructional conversations begin. Most teachers don’t seem to fight the black and white directives, but they come unglued when the instructional conversations begin. I have witnessed close to twenty assistant principals and instructional coaches engage in instructional conversations. That is a lot of different people, with a lot of different approaches and personalities, all receiving negative reactions from teachers when the instructional conversations begin.
There has to be something to learn here.”
A very interesting observation and one that I too have seen on multiple campuses. I think the issue boils down to the difference between “fact” versus “opinion,” or as E. Don Brown reminds us, the “objective” versus the “subjective.”
Consider “speeding.” When I speed, I recognize the risk / reward proposition. If I don’t get caught or have a wreck (the risk), I get to my destination faster (the reward). If by chance I do get a ticket or have a wreck, I don’t like it, but I only have myself to blame. Plus, I can’t complain about it much, because there is not much sympathy given when you are the cause of your own grief. This is similar to my cutting a procedural corner at work. I finally get caught coming in late, not following the appearance code, or not turning in my lesson plans, I have no one to blame but myself. My peers may empathize, but they are not going to come to my defense. As you stated, it is all very cut and dried, very objective.
Now let’s say I’m at home mowing the yard like I always do and a county inspector comes up and tells me that I’m mowing wrong. Even worse, he says if I don’t mow in a more aesthetically pleasing manner, I will be fined. Needless to say, we are going to have an argument and my friends will give me a friendly ear and quite possibly will come to my assistance. What I just described is obviously arbitrary and subjective.
Now here’s the rub, teachers believe the assessment of their craft is subjective, and rightfully so. When there are no objective standards, no objective expectations and infrequent observation, then the evaluation of the teacher is the simply the subjective masquerading as the objective. So any feedback remotely negative results in an understandably defensive response.
But as an experiences LYS leader, you have changed the rules. By implementing the “science” of instruction (the Foundation Trinity and the Fundamental Five), you have transformed the subjective into the objective. Unfortunately, teacher perception does not change nearly as fast. So the first time teachers are faced with truly objective feedback, they want to kill the messenger. Stay the course. Given enough time your teachers will come around. But blink and you are sunk.
Think. Work. Achieve.