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When I first became a teacher in Ontario, Canada, we were evaluated once a year by a Superintendent of Education who flew in from Toronto to evaluate teacher performance against expectations contained in a small grey book. We were made aware of the date and time of their visit and were expected to teach a lesson upon their arrival. We coached our students to look engaged in the lesson and folklore has it that some teachers even told their students to raise their right hand if they knew the answer and their left if they didn't. Hence, all appeared to be engaged. The Superintendent also evaluated the "climate" of the classroom. In those days, this was reduced to checking the thermostat, the consistency of the level of the blinds and the general tidiness of the room. This evaluation obviously had no impact on teacher development or student learning.
How things have changed! Ontario now has a comprehensive teacher evaluation system which is an integral part of a continuum of professional learning that supports effective teaching. The goals of the Teacher Performance Appraisal (TPA) System are to:
Teachers and principals are partners in the process which focuses on the continuous improvement of teaching practices. The process is different for beginning and experienced teachers as well as for those experiencing difficulty and those with a strong record of performance. In consultation wtih principals, teachers create an Annual Learning Plan that focuses on areas in which they can continuously improve. As a principal, I guided my teachers to set routine, creative, problem solving and personal growth goals. They would then develop action plans for each goal and I would be engaged in ongoing support and follow up discussions.
The vision of the TPA System is that every teacher in publicly funded education reaches his or her potential. When this is achieved, our students will also reach their potential. WIthout a focus on continuous improvement relative to comprehensive quality standards, our schools will be stuck at meeting minimal standards on standardized tests and will not begin to address important issues such as personalization through learning styles and brain research; creating safe and caring cultures, climates and communities; reducing bullying; and simply making a difference.
School districts currently spend approximately 10% of their budget on staff development and evaluation. This is a lot of money. Too much of it is spent far removed from the relationships in the classroom and the school. Teacher evaluation systems too often get out of hand. A recent on-line discussion group asked the question of whether we should bring in outside experts to "do" teacher evaluations in order to free up some of the principal's time for more important things. This would be a huge step backwards. There is nothing more important for a princpal to do than develop his or her staff to meet their full potential. Only then will our students be getting the personalized, supportive education they need.
We need elegant teacher evaluation systems that focus on what is important in promoting meaningful student learning and development as human beings. This is what matters. This is priceless!
Over the past nine years I have had the pleasure of hiring (and the displeasure of firing) new hires into their teaching careers. In watching teachers come into the profession some just "have it." Some seem to be innately programmed to be teachers. For others, it is a much more difficult road to travel. Additionally, there has been much awareness brought up about "teacher burn-out" and teachers not being able to survive this profession.
We know that teaching is a demanding, busy, spontaneous profession. Thriving in it is possible when we understand that those who thrive are reflective and coachable.
Lori also blogs at www.attheprincipalsoffice.com Click on the link for more great information.
In my two previous posts I talked about what leaders need to know and do. Now here's the hardest list - How do leaders have to be? Again, I've reduced the ideas to a list so that you can deal with the ideas in a way that best suits you.
To be a real leader you must be:
As with the previous lists, this seems very simplistic and straightforward. However, please take time to think about what each point means to you and how you can truly "be" the leader we need in public education today.
The use of Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences (MI theory) has been increasing by leaps and bounds in countries across the globe. In many countries, it has become part of national policy. In India, for example, as part of its National Curriculum Framework for School Education teachers are required to have familiarity with the concepts of multiple intelligences. Gardner himself writes: “…I have been amazed to learn of jurisdictions in which the terminology of MI has been incorporated into white papers, recommendations by ministries, and even legislation…I have heard from reliable sources that MI approaches are part of the policy landscape in such diverse lands as Australia, Bangladesh, Canada, China, Denmark, Ireland and the Netherlands” (Multiple Intelligences: New Horizons in Theory and Practice, p. 248).
At the same time, research studies based on multiple intelligences have multiplied in higher education institutions around the world. Journal articles dedicated to this subject have covered populations from areas as diverse as Namibia, Zimbabwe, Zambia, South Africa, Malaysia, China, and Japan. In Geneva, Switzerland, the prestigious International Baccalaureate (IB) Organization, which offers programs to over 600,000 students in 128 countries, has acknowledged Gardner’s role in influencing its own approach to learning: “Howard Gardner has been influential in changing views about learning and the ways we learn. Access and equity within the IB today is much wider than it was previously. It is acknowledged that all students have strengths and weaknesses which must be supported in a strategic way for them to meet their potential.” (IB World, September, 2007).
In the Phillipines, the MI International High School in Quezon City (a suburb of Manila) puts MI theory to work in the cause of promoting entrepreneurship among its students. Students are challenged to develop real-world business plans based on ideas that emerge from MI lessons. A linguistic group, for example, developed Flash Range, a media center that creates books for teens that deal with environmental and personal and emotional growth issues. A musical group created a business called Boom Box Music, which offers musical composition and record production services. A group of people-smart students conceptualized their own family restaurant –Pastuchi- featuring a fusion of Italian and Japanese cuisines.
In Denmark, the industrial manufacturer Danfoss, has created a theme park—Danfoss Universe– that incorporates many strategies and ideas from multiple intelligences. They have essentially created a multiple intelligences interactive museum, where children and adults participate in over fifty activities designed to both test their multiple intelligences and also raise awareness concerning the many different ways of being smart.
In my own work with multiple intelligences, I’ve given keynotes and workshops in twenty countries including Iceland, Singapore, and the tiny province of Andorra. I’ve had my books on multiple intelligences translated in over fifty foreign editions into twenty-three languages (including 11 editions in Chinese alone). It’s truly been marvelous to see the broad impact that MI theory has been making internationally.
To learn more about the impact of multiple intelligences in cultures around the world, see: Multiple Intelligences Around the World, Jie-Qi Chen, Seana Moran, and Howard Gardner (eds), San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2009. To read my chapter from the book, click on the title: “When Cultures Connect: Multiple Intelligences Theory as a Successful American Export to Other Countries
This post is a part of the ASCD Forum conversation “how do we define and measure teacher and principal effectiveness?” To learn more about the ASCD Forum, go to www.ascd.org/ascdforum.
I became a principal in a rather untraditional way. In the retirement of our school’s long standing co-principals, two other colleagues and I decide to apply as a leadership team. We had advanced degrees in education, but neither of us had formal administrative experience, although we had plenty of leadership roles in our professional work. My principal preparation was on the job and mentor supported. I am currently in the process of taking further coursework which combines educational leadership theory and practice, particularly through an additional leadership practicum at a local school. Having the opportunity to connect my work so far with this theory has provided me with further opportunity for reflection on my role and skills as a leader. The practicum has been a wonderful opportunity to also see how other schools are meeting the every day challenges we share as administrators.
In having this varied set of experiences, I offer some considerations for administration training and continued support throughout an administrator’s journey.
Investing in effective training AND providing continued support to administrators are key to a school’s success. Our classrooms highlight future leadership potential, now it remains the responsibility of the educational community on all levels to foster and sustain these leaders.
This post is a part of the ASCD Forum conversation “how do we define and measure teacher and principal effectiveness?” To learn more about the ASCD Forum, go to www.ascd.org/ascdforum.
I have recently been reading Sustainable Leadership by Andy Hargreaves and Dean Fink. They note that there are three challenges to creating change. Change must first be desirable, then doable. The most challenging aspect of change is making it durable and sustainable (Hargreaves and Fink, 2006, p.2). These components came to mind as I was reflecting on the role of effective teacher preparation programs. (I humbly note that I do not have a background in developing teacher education programs, this merely reflects my personal experiences and observations in the field as an educator.)
Educators are individuals who have chosen this field because of their desire to positively impact students’ lives. In choosing to be a part of this extremely challenging and rewarding profession, the desire component of change is easily fulfilled.
Making change doable is the role of educator preparation programs. It provides prospective teachers with the necessary foundation for their chosen practice. Two considerations are:
How are effective preparation programs structured?
An educator preparation program must have practicing teachers, especially in curriculum development and pedagogy courses. Although I currently reside in Canada, I received my teacher preparation in the United States. I was very fortunate to have professors who were also currently practicing in local elementary or secondary schools. Prospective teachers need practice putting the theory into action. My professors had practical and relevant classroom experiences to share with me. They were able to help me dissect and reflect on my practice because they too were doing so with their own classrooms.
Integrate teachers into the classroom right away. The program I was a part of did this, much earlier than many other institutions at the time. In the first year, we participated in observations of various classrooms, which then moved to assisting the teacher in classroom duties. In years two and three, we then created a lesson to present within our supervising teacher’s unit, then constructed and implemented an entire unit of our own. We also were assigned to work with one struggling student in our supervising teacher’s class for an extended period of time.
Give prospective educators the space to understand the work is about students, not just your content area of interest. In my early years as a prospective science teacher, I was so nervous about creating the perfect lesson plan and making sure I understood my material perfectly. I had not yet understood how to effectively address the socio-emotional needs of my students. My assignment to work with a struggling student forever changed my interactions with future students. In that time, I learned how this student’s struggles at home impacted her ability to focus in school—it was no wonder that she could have cared less about labs and demonstrations. Over our time together, we devised a plan and met regularly. I carefully modified my work in response. In the end, she was able to both increase her grade significantly, improve her overall attendance and we had forged a stronger teacher-student relationship. Most importantly, she taught me the importance of taking the time to slow down, listen, be flexible and understand how to truly connect with students.
What other voices and experiences should prospective teachers be exposed to?
Give educators the opportunity to spend more time in the classroom than “required.” In my fourth year, I participated in the standard teacher practicum that is the norm in many schools. The education department at our university had close ties with the local school board and would inform us of upcoming teaching training opportunities. In my last two years, I opted to apply and participate in an optional two-year internship that this school board offered. This required me to be in the classroom for additional hours beyond my teacher education classes. Having this additional time in the classroom provided me with opportunities to learn from other practicing teachers, participate in the life of a school, receive feedback and refine my practices. It gave me a much clearer sense of what my life as a future teacher would look like.
Teachers must understand and learn how to integrate social justice issues into their work. Later in my educational career, I had the opportunity to work in a school that focused on social justice education. It was evident in the mission, diversity in the faculty and staff, as well as the culture we tried to create. The voices and experiences of our students were reflected in everything from the curriculum and teaching practices, to what hung on the school walls. I became a better educator through this experience. In our global society, our success as educators is dependent upon our ability as educators to reach, influence and engage ALL students. Prospective educators must feel comfortable speaking and responding to issues of equity and diversity. Thoughtful integration of social justice issues into one’s curriculum takes practice to ensure that they are addressed appropriately and in an inclusive manner. Therefore, preparation programs across the board must help foster a strong foundation by integrating this within course requirements, not merely making it an add-on component.
Encourage experienced teachers to continue to grow throughout their educational careers. Finally, what about the sustainability of learning in our profession? My practice as a teacher changed and further developed when I decided to leave the United States and move to Canada. In doing so, I was challenged to learn a new curriculum and had to adapt my programming, while also exploring new classroom practices. I have always been the type of person that is eager to learn new things and reflect on my work, but a complete change in school systems forced me to become a “new teacher” again and learn valuable lessons to reinvent my practice. Obviously it is not viable for individuals to move to different schools to seek this type of growth. However, I do see the value of new experiences in that they can positively disrupt and shape us to grow even further.
So it leads me to question: Who is responsible for that work? Providers of Teacher Preparation Programs? School Districts? Administrators? Teachers? All of us? The growing use of PLNs (Professional Learning Networks) is an essential piece of this growth, but these are largely driven by individual educator efforts on one’s own time. I am currently pondering how we can invest in teacher leadership programming. I am not referring to administration programs for those who are looking to becoming a principal, vice-principal or curriculum/department leads, though such teacher leadership programming could certainly include similar topic areas.
My rationale is this: If we believe that creating change in our schools is based on the work of effective leaders, then we must consider that leaders must be present at all levels of our schools. We must invest in the leadership capacity of all educators, not just those in the traditional leadership roles. The question again is what does this effective programming look like and who is responsible? The answers are critical to sustaining a culture of leadership and learning in our schools.
Hargreaves, A. & Fink, D. (2006). Sustainable Leadership. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Leaders do everything. Their "To Do" list is infinite and additions to the list never stop. The expectations placed on school leaders are impossible to achieve - without a solid base of vision, mission, values and beliefs. Real Leaders take control of their "To Do" list by doing the following:
• earn and give trust and respect
• inspire, engage and empower others
• see the Big Picture and share this to enact change
• lead by example
• act decisively and confidently
• drive sustained improvement in teaching and learning
• provide differentiated/ customizedsupport to staff and students
• challenge long-cherished practices when facts show they are ineffective
• build relationships
• give your heart to what needs to be done
• believe in continuous improvement
• share leadership through engagement and empowerment
• help others access their own inner wisdom
• learn and grow through and with other people
• broaden your thinking and integrate perspectives
• create synergy through building connections among people and ideas
• make acute, wise observations of human behavior and patterns
• focus energy so that inaction is impossible
• articulate your beliefs and values
• communicate and celebrate
• have high expectations
• plan and budget strategically
• use wisdom and common sense
• instill a sense of efficacy
• build a collaborative, trust-based culture
• align organizational design with purpose
• infuse a sense of humor in interactions
• ensure that students feel comfortable and safe
• model and create a sense of balance between school life and home life
• practice what you preach
With this action framework in place, each new "Action Item" can be assessed as to how it fits and how much time will or will not be alllocated to it. I used this for almost 30 years as a principal and was never stressed by the unrealistic demands placed on principals by the system or other stakeholders. With this solid foundation guiding my actions, I was always comfortable with the way my time was used and with the demands I placed on my teachers. More importantly, I was always proud of the impact of my focused actions.
What does it take to implement the Common Core? Real Leadership. Real leaders share a common core of knowledge, values and action. These three form the solid foundation our leaders require to have a real impact on the future of public education.
Specifically, our leaders need to Know the following:
Although reduced to an 11-point list, these points are very complex and cannot be addressed by a quick read and check-off. Each requires deep thought, analysis and follow-up. In order to encourage this level of engagement in the list, I will post the Doing and Being Lists separately.