Community Choices Indicate Community Priorities

In my earlier post about scheduling “When You Are Choosing Something, You Are Choosing Not” I wrote:

For every education decision, the path taken is weighed against what is not.  Creating a schedule lays this bare each year.  If you give math more time, it will come from something else. As the parties vie for what they need to honor their subject, two things become clear: What the community as a whole values, and what each stakeholder values about themselves.

In Richard Dufour’s book Learning by Doing: A Handbook for Professional Commmunities at Work he writes to the first part: Community values.

We had Professional Learning Communities (or “PLC”) thrust upon us with poor leadership or mandate, but in taking an administration course the Dufour book made the idea of what they were supposed to be clear. One point that Dufour made, which as stuck with me, was that you could tell a community’s priorities by the resources–time and money–they throw at it.

Some of these priorites are obvious to everyone. At a local high school, the athletic tape budget for the football team is higher than then entire equipment budget for the cross country team. Most of these choices make sense–a strong case can be made for greater support of the football team–but all indicate the priority of the community. And on Saturday, the stands around the well groomed field are full, while the runners pass through empty wooded paths.

This comes up more subtly in other situations.

For example, a writing assessment for our 8th graders was suddenly assigned by central office. No time was allotted for the fifty-something papers that now demanded timely correcting and the entering of the data, much less any respect shown for the class time that would be lost for its administration. The priority was clear: Admin directives or teacher time and planning. Assessment over instruction.

Pointing this out to Admins makes them uncomfortable because they are used to teachers sucking it up and making up for their poor planning. Teachers make things work, while Admins make work.

Teachers: Don’t do it. Because giving in and making it work is as much as sign of how teachers view themselves as anything. If what you do with in the classroom with students is valuable, stand up for it. The administration needs to make the hard decision about priorities and stand behind them–that’s why they get paid so much. When we’ve stood firm, the Admins have found a way.

Note: Don’t allow for the administation to assign a substitute for your class so you can go off and take care of administrative priorities. The subtext is that their initiative is more important than having a qualified teacher giving best instruction. Sometimes, like with a conference that will not bend its time, being out of the classroom is inevitable. Often, it is a band aid.

Administrators are clever enough, and control the master schedule, so they can figure it out. Or, knock off a few “priorities” from the list.

Of course, if your priority is this or that and it takes you out of the classroom…. But all parties need to be aware that everything is a choice. Choose value.

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