Monday, March 21, 2011

The Buy-In

There's something similar at nearly all of the audited schools: the site based decision making councils are disbanded. As I read Ravitch's The Death and Life of the American School System, I'm starting to see why.

In her book, she discusses a few districts that have been through similar, and oftentimes worse upheavals than we are experiencing in Kentucky. Ravitch describes areas were they used a "top down" approach to overhauling school systems. Apparently, site based decision making councils (SBDMs) are the bane of reform. Expecting teachers, integral members of any functioning SBDM, to buy in and accept change takes too long and isn't worth it. Change should be forced without the acceptance and cooperation of those expected to enforce it.

Oh sure, coaches were provided to ensure that teachers knew what to do and how to do it. But, as Ravitch notes, the teachers mostly saw the coaches as spies and their actions (inspections of classrooms) were somewhat spy-like. Ravitch also noted that during the enforcement of these new regimes, teachers were depressed and stressed about their jobs. One can hardly blame them. It wasn't until I received word that I was safe that I realized how stressing the entire audit process was for me and my family.

Setting aside the implication of spying and such, the idea of telling teachers what to do, without their input or compliance, is a recipe for disaster. You see, as a teacher, you have to actually believe what you are teaching, how you are teaching it and why you are teaching it. You can't fake enthusiasm. You can't fake what you're doing. Kids know. They always know. They can tell when you're doing something because you have to and when you're doing something that you know will actually help them. Even the best teachers can't put on a fake smile for the kids because she has to.

Programs that are expected to be enforced have to have buy-in from the teachers implementing those changes. Not many of us got into teacher for a paycheck. Don't misunderstand me. I enjoy my paycheck. I wish it were more! However, if I won the lottery, I'd probably still be a teacher. I'm not here for just the money. I'm here to teach. I'm here to learn. I'm hear to help children. It only makes sense to ask me, someone in the classroom who has a real investment in what happens in the classroom about program and policy changes. Without cooperation between teachers and lawmakers, we won't be able to close the achievement gap. As long as those outside of classrooms, even if they logged decades in a class room, it wasn't my classroom, make the rules in education, students will suffer.

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