In response to the posts relating to, “Teacher Stress,” a reader writes:
I love your response! This could easily be a teacher from my school. We recently reviewed a list of the new initiatives and changes that have been made this year (national mandates, district mandates, and campus based improvement actions). It is a lot. Then we looked at what was causing us the most stress. What is causing us the most discomfort are the instructional initiatives that we have put in place to monitor student achievement and improve instruction.
I was reading a blog post a few weeks ago from the principal who was in a low performing school. She said that she had written up over 100 teachers for managerial issues. But when she started to have conversations about instruction, the flood gates opened – teachers started complaining to the union. How ironic it is that teachers feel justified to defend mediocre practices that clearly have not been working? Additionally, how did the pervasive belief that administrators should not be involved in instruction even get started?
We have lots of work to do”
Change is rarely fun and almost always inconvenient. But as adults, we realize that most change is inevitable, so we just go along to get along. That change is the change the “machine” imposes on us. It is the procedures and rules that for the most part we all have to live by. Since “I” didn’t make the rules, “I” don’t own the rules, so the change is not personal. Since we are all equally inconvenienced by the rule change complaining doesn’t do me any good; life just goes on.
On the other hand, if I have to change a practice that “I” decided is important, that “I” have some ownership of, and that practice has some bearing on my self-worth and how the organization values me, I’m not going to like it and you can bet that I’m telling someone about it.
If I am the person identified as leading this “attack” on self-determination, I need to be ready for this push-back. Not to punish, but to manage the change process and speed up implementation. The problems flare up when either I didn’t expect the push-back, or I respond incorrectly to the push-back. Just remember that first rule of implementing meaningful change, “movement requires friction.”
Teachers defend the mediocre because it represents the predictable. If we want to improve on the mediocre, we have to provide teachers with the tools that make the unpredictable manageable. That is why the Foundation Trinity is non-negotiable. The Foundation Trinity provides the structure for teachers to evolve their practice in small steps, thus reducing their perceived risk. They still don’t like it, but they don’t like it for a shorter period of time. As a leader, you just have to be OK with you and your ideas not being liked.
Finally, where did the idea that classrooms are off limits to administration come from? I think it mostly came from poor leadership. The sad truth is that way too many of us in the administrative leadership and support ranks moved up to “escape” the classroom. Once that is accomplished, returning to the classroom becomes the last item on their “To-do” list. Since this group outnumbers the group that understands the necessity of continued hands-on involvement in instruction, the deviant behavior becomes the norm. I have essentially given up on changing this at the macro level. Now I work at changing this one campus at a time. If literature and presentations won’t change the lazy and the ignorant, perhaps being steam rolled by the campus next door will get their attention.
Think. Work. Achieve.