Today I met with an adminstrator, teachers, and counselors to discuss changing the advisory system at our school. We have a “class” that’s supposed to be an advisory-type time for students to connect with one teacher for all four years of high school, but it’s not quite meeting that objective and something needs to change. I initiated contact with the adminstrator about this and she got me on the committee responsible for discussing and implementing this advisory time with teachers.
Today’s meeting was an excellent opportunity to brainstorm and come up with solutions to problems I’ve heard from other teachers, but unfortunately the results of the meeting left me feeling quite frustrated. It boiled down to having a lot of difficulty with implementing any change with the current model because certain teachers don’t participate in the ways they should and certain adminstrators don’t do anything to make sure those teachers actually do participate. It was an eye-opening experience for me to hear such candid remarks across the table and yet also refreshing to hear the same perspective and passion I have for this part of the school-week. The class, aptly named Pirate Connections, is only thirty minutes long one day a week. In that thirty minutes, a myriad of school-related junk (for lack of a better term) happens. It is supposed to be a time for teachers to connect with students, check in with them, help them with their problems, and also guide them in the direction of their future. The problem, however, is that same time is also used for club meetings, pirate TV episodes, behavioral lessons, senior class meetings, and sports meetings. What it means is that even for good teachers it is very difficult to make a true connection and it’s very confusing for all people in the people what is going on during that time. For someone like me, who is a huge fan of simple and straightforward things, this is an absolute nightmare of a situation.
So, we met today to discuss how to solve some of these issues. Apparently, the admin wanted to rebrand the time by giving it a new name and proposing ideas for getting teachers more involved and successful in fulfilling the courses actual mission. To me, this was just a lame way of addressing a deeper issue. And everyone at the meeting today agreed with me and shared insightful points and hilarious anecdotes regarding certain shortcomings at our school. I enjoyed hearing these truths, yet couldn’t help but lament the fact that there are people who are allowed to hold a certain professional title and yet are ineffective and what’s worse non-compliant with addressing these issues and improving the school.
How and why is this allowed to happen? I heard things today that really disapointed me in my school. I work for a great district, but I do believe that there is not enough teacher involvement in decision-making. This creates an apathetic and distant culture among colleagues because teachers (not all, but many) are satisfied remaining isolated and in charge of their own teaching realm. I think it divides the school, creates disjointed efforts, and cultivates confusion among students and staff. The people who lead the school should be visible more in the school. The people who lead departments should be visible in those departments. There should be sharing of best practices and student behavior and school-wide issues. There should be authentic professional development spurred by staff interest and attended by all staff members (shocking, but this is not a requirement at most staff “development”). As I sat in today’s meeting, my mind starting racing in a thousand different directions for solving this web of problems. I understand that the solutions are complex, but coming to solutions with professional adults should be easier. Something is seriously wrong with the people who are becoming teachers if they don’t understand that their job is to create the best learning environments for ALL students and not just in their class, but in ALL classes. There needs to be a culture of teamwork and support, but sadly that is seriously lacking.
The most encouraging part of this meeting was that the other people involved were teachers and counselors who have been doing it for 20+ years. Sometimes I feel like my passion for reform comes from being young and naïve, but today I felt affirmed that others agree. There are people who chose the right career, but something needs to change (and maybe it starts at the policy level) for the schools of the future. I don’t think that enough is being done currently to break with the tradition and innovate in how schools function.
I gave up an hour and half of my planning time today to essentially come up with a new name in order to disguise what is still a grave problem. This only impassions me more to continue the great fight in working toward meaningful, long-lasting change.