Administrator support is important for teachers who want to save time and reduce stress in their classrooms. You can learn what you have to do to support teachers in the Administrator's Corner of our Website.
People might assume that the strategies and goals that we recommend are the same strategies and goals that administrators hold for the teachers that they supervise. We wish that this were the case.
Administrators that wish to become better instructional leaders can benefit from this site. You are welcome to share the information you find here, and you are welcome to direct the teachers that you supervise to find out how the strategies that we recommend can help them to teach better.
If you find a teacher that becomes calmer, better organized and who seems to be producing better student outcomes with less stress and effort; you may be supervising a teacher that already found our site.
Since high-stakes test scores probably keep you walking an on-the-job tightrope, you can be comforted that we recommend a strategic process where a teacher's coaching of test-taking aligns with your curriculum. Classroom Toolkit recommends creative, modular and reusable strategies for test practice, instead of relying on the standard "practice-in-isolation" books that teachers inevitably buy with their own money.
If you really want to improve the performance of the teachers that you supervise, you should suggest that they work together. Working together will save time and decrease stress. Another benefit is that better creative ideas seem to pop up when teachers share.
Teachers that build and share components , especially for the same thematic units, save a lot of time for each other.
Our site provides the basic framework for teachers to share the reusable instructional modules that they create.
Using a Classroom Toolkit materials management framework, teachers can find the building blocks for their entire school year.
You, as an administrator, also can schedule useful professional development programs for teachers.
I have to admit that in approximately 17 years of teaching, I probably attended less than a half dozen useful in-service training programs:
Of the useful professional development programs:
See our critique of standard professional development seat-time in our newsletter article, Professional Development: Fast-Track to Empowerment or an Energy-Sapping Seat-Time Rut.
You can find quality staff development by using your own staff. This is the reason that we prefer the term "Staff Development" over the term "in-service."
In my experience, in-house in service programs were more useful, but not all of them.
Probably the most important thing to do is ensure that your staff presenters are treated politely by their colleagues.
Probably the most important thing to avoid is turning the presentation over to any member of a campus clique. No matter how skilled, or how expert the information that clique members are able to impart. The cost of allowing one of these people to conduct a staff development program is too high.
Probably the most useful staff development will never get done. This staff development will never see light of day because education system higher ups could not deal with the outcomes of teacher empowerment and honest appraisal.
The "we-won't-touch-this-with-a-ten-foot-pole" staff development would be a "tell it like it is" problem solving session where real issues were explored and real solutions charted. This "only-in-our-dreams" fantasy in-service could kick start of a classroom, campus and district improvement project that focused upon a "no truth left untold" needs assessment.
The reason that such a staff development will never launch is that many individuals (both up and down the "chain of command ladder") do not want their tender backsides discovered, unprotected, and vulnerable to the "light of day" and the inevitable change for the better. Opaque chain-of-command-control serves the status quo more reliably than "transparent truth and truth's vicious insistence upon real service to our students."
School system management inefficiencies propagate like weeds due to "top-down-governance." The chain of command structure countermands the knowledge of those who know how to teach (i.e., teachers). School district management is less than efficient because external directives from people who know less than district administrators (such as politicians) interfere with the normal and natural flow of learning.
There are two resources that school districts fail to recognize as the most important resources for the teaching of students. These are:
Pay attention to the resources that students and teachers offer. The search for school district resources can be compared to finding an oasis in the desert. Look for water at the oasis and everything flourishes. Look for water anywhere else and you come up dry.
It is an unfortunate side effect to a school district's bureaucratic governance that there is an inverse relationship to the altitude upon the chain of command and the benefit to students in a school district from the work contributed by high-level employees. The antidote for this sad, "reverse-benefits-to-students" system is to empower teachers to make decisions…and to compel principals, directors and superintendents to support teachers' initiatives.
Top-down initiatives, to become even moderately useful, require lots of high-stress, low-payoff activities and coercive (or manipulative) influence in their deployment. Teachers and students begrudge these "commanded"initiatives that everyone can see are useless and ineffective.
The best example of a top-down, ineffective initiative is the No Child Left Behind Act. I doubt that anyone can point to an initiative that has been more costly, more detrimental and more out-of-step with how teachers teach and how children learn than this law. If school district administrators had been willing to earn their keep, they would have revolted in support of our students and teachers. But there was no outcry exposing this "roadblock-to-teaching" law from our school district's administrators. Instead, witch hunts to send quality teachers "packing", and budget cuts for legitimate programs so that funds could be squandered on "teaching to the test and benchmarking initiatives."
See our Classroom Toolkit newsletter article, , for a critique of the ill-advised benchmarking programs that many school districts have implemented.
It is one of my the biggest frustrations to know that everything that is needed to teach each student, the "manual," is found "in the packaging" of each student. Pay attention to students, and they will tell you how to teach them. Anyone who dedicates the time to pay attention to each child, who trusts the child's innate capacity, and who marshals a bit of sensitivity will find that the child announces the key to how they learn in ways that are "loud, clear and direct."
The talents that students bring to school are boundless and breathtaking. The narrow cave that the "teach to the test" mentality and NCLB Law squeezes children through scrapes and scratches our children's autonomy and self-concept on many sides.
An analogy of what our school systems are doing to our children is illustrated by this Administrator's Corner parable.
The children are like Arabian horses, quarter horses, Clydesdale draft horses, thoroughbred race horses, circus horses, Shetland ponies and wild horses…but, we are training them all to be "pack mules" on a test-taking trudge through a bleak and lifeless landscape.
If this parable finds resonance in your heart, mind or soul… please resolve to support our students and resolve to support our teachers in any way that you can.