This week has been a rollercoaster of emotions stemming from watching NBC's coverage of Education Nation, having tough conversations with colleagues, reading the blogs of others, and also living out a career in a "turnaround" model school.
I am fearful of the demise of public education in this country. I believe that even with all of the circus with Education Nation this past week - that education will once again fall by the wayside. But, the honest truth is that it can't. If it does public education will be in a state of peril.
You see, I work is a school that is in trouble. We are not in a downtown urban setting, but rather in one of the biggest tourist destination in the country. We are a school that has adopted one of the federal differentiated accountability models, also known as a "turnaround". But, I fear that the focus is not on the dire need to reform what we are doing in these schools. We talk charters all the time - but, with 2000 students at our school, where are these students going to go. We must educate these students in these buildings. However, reform is not the correct option - we need to "blow it up" and begin all over again with the design of these schools.
It must begin with a topic discussed this week - tenure. The need to eliminate the educators who do nothing for our students is crucial to the success of these schools. We have them - others have them, and they need to go. We need to put quality educators in these classrooms and use some of the models that are working. Models like SLA, and so may others. Designing institutions that focus on student learning - nothing else - must be our mission. We need to flood these schools with resources including technology.
I know that this post is all over the place - but that is where my mind is right now.
The time for talking is over... action is what is needed now. I am doing my part and will graduate in December with my administrator certification - putting myself in a position to begin to influence the system. It is time for all of us, educators to stand up and take control of the system. While this will not happen overnight, it needs to happen.
It is our job to make sure that these schools and this system do not fail. I will pose a question to you as well. If not us - who?
Today in class, as I often do, caught a student copying work for another class. It got me to thinking...
What are our students getting from the work that we assign them?
Assignments that can be copied and done in a few minutes during the class period prior to being turned in have zero affect on student learning. The student not only missed instruction in my classroom, but also got nothing from the assigned work.
The bigger question is whether we should give homework that is "copiable".
I understand that there may be the occasional assignment or subject where this may be unavoidable. However, homework assignments that can simply be copied are not effective. Students need to be creating original work that requires them to think at high levels. This concept is really tough for some to grasp.
Some educators may argue the point that the student is cheating and should be penalized. These same educators would give no thought to the assessment itself and whether it was a valid assignment to begin with. The truth is that if we give "copiable" assignments we are just as guilty as the student. They are cheating - but we too are cheating. We are cheating students of learning - and you know what they say...
I am banishing the word administrator from my vocabulary with regard to public education.
Now hiring... instructional leaders.
The day and age of the instructional leader (the leader formerly known as the principal) sitting in an office and dealing with finances and other decision making alone are over. Today's educators and educational institutions are in need of innovative instructional leaders. Those who leave one foot in the classroom not matter how far removed they may actually be.
We (public education) need instructional leaders who are collaborating with teachers and students in their buildings to make the best decisions for the students. We often tote around the company line of "do it for the kids" - an empty goal that in turn goes ignored when decisions are made at the district, state, or federal level. The time for leaders with stagnant ideas who occupy the big chair for years on end are over - as in done.
Now hiring... instructional leaders.
Educators need leaders in their schools (especially the lowest performing schools) that model what to do, not dictate what to do. I have often wondered how many leaders charged with turning around or leading schools can outperform me in the classroom. The answer is probably far too low. That is what I want - in fact, it is what we must have. Instructional leaders that can instruct, develop, and nurture teacher and students alike are what we need.
I aspire to become one of these leaders and I know that they are out there already leading some great schools. If you are one of them - share your message and skills with others. We are not looking for leaders who are not interested in "doing it for the kids".
I am making a solid push to grow my PLN (personal learning network) and Twitter is going to be my vehicle for sure.
I also wanted to let you know that I will be reaching out to collaborate on assignments for my students from time to time. I will be looking for some higher level, provocative questions for my students to blog about. The concept is not mine, I have to attribute that to Shelly Blake-Plock, the man behind the curtain over at TeachPaperless. So, of your not PLNing, or your not on Twitter - join in the conversation now. I promise that you will thank me for it.
My wife and I were out to dinner the other evening and we did what we always do... and discussed work.
You see, my wife and I are both educators. As most educators will tell you it is tough to not talk shop when around other educators. This night's conversation was the same as always - shooting around ideas about how to improve our practice to benefit our students. So, as dinner (and discussion) progressed we came to a conclusion...
We are going to do the write thing.
We (my wife and I) are going to begin work on a book. We both teach secondary and notice the lack of resources for teachers at this level... other than the myriad of work published by an amazing community of educators on the Interweb. However, educators need a "gateway" to get there. So, we are going to write a guide for secondary teachers - somewhere along the lines of a field manual for educators.
The rest of 2010 is going to be action packed here at Innovate Education. We look forward serving educators with quality professional development, developing a mini conference in Central Florida (inspired by the work of Chris Lehmann), and working to publish a book.
I also hope to contribute more meaningful musings to this blog.
Mike Meechin is an educator. He is employed by a school district in Central Florida as a high school social science teacher. Mike is also the owner of Innovate Education, LLC., an educational consulting firm in Central Florida.