What to Do With the Entrenched, Bad Teacher

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As the LYS Nation is well aware, I (and the rest of the LYS Team) work with schools across the country.  The purpose and focus of our work – increase student opportunity, in every academic setting. Meaning we work with schools and districts that make up the entire tapestry of public education.  

Now a lot of the schools we work with aren’t in the “Want to change” group, for various reasons they are in the “Have to change” group.  The question that we often get from administrators on these campuses is what to do about the long-time disgruntled teacher who is unwilling to change.  A fair question.

The first thing I have to remind administration is that the cynical, disgruntled veteran didn’t start out the way.  He/she came about it honest.  Years of working with inadequate resources, no support, low pay, and high stress, in virtual isolation will do that to a person. Surprising – is it not?  

The cycle has to broken. The quick and easy way to break this cycle with your current disgruntled teacher is to fire him/her and replace him/her with a new teacher that has yet to be scarred and damaged by an obviously flawed system. This is an opportunist’s solution that masquerades as “Can Do, High Expectation” leadership (see M. Rhee).

Or you can break the cycle by providing instructional resources, focused training, cueing, monitoring, problem solving support and regular coaching.  This solution takes longer to implement, especially with the disgruntled teacher, but it is the fair solution.  It requires the instructional leader to reach out, explain, and give teachers the opportunity to engage, even if it is grudgingly at first.  If the teacher comes around and is coachable, he/she gets both time and coaching.

Now if the teacher refuses to use the new tools, refuses to respond to coaching, refuses to engage in a productive manner; then you have no choice but to give the teacher notice and start the termination process.  It happens. But not as often as you might expect.  Because even the disgruntled teacher wants her students to be successful.  Give the disgruntled teacher the means to make students successful in greater numbers and watch the obvious cynic transform into a potential champion… Right before your eyes.

Think. Work. Achieve. Your turn…

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