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If I Were in Charge…

I read this excellent blog post from Sharon Elin the other night, and it really got me thinking. Don’t you just love to read a post that really makes you think?! In this post, Sharon lays out 5 things that she would do to change education. So, what would I do? The first thing I thought is that I would have “Kelly Hines, Queen of the Schools” printed on my business cards. Then again, I don’t really think that’s what she was hoping to solicit. But in all seriousness, what are some things that I would do to change education?

No More Textbooks!

Photo by sheeshoo

Photo by sheeshoo

In a time when schools are facing serious budget issues, we are all considering places where we can cut back. I just don’t understand why we are starting with instructional and support positions. In all of my experiences, children learn from people. A minute percentage of students can be handed a textbook and mastery any part of the concepts being presented. Each year, schools in the United States spend millions of dollars of hardcover textbooks that are used as a resource in teaching all sorts of content from grades K through 12. But why are we spending these millions of dollars on a resource that could be replaced with free, open-source software, internet content and creative teaching? I have taught in schools where I was required to teach word for word from a standardized textbook that was written for the masses. Was it entirely research-based, correlated to our state and national standards and meeting the needs of individual students? No. It cost a lot of money. I haven’t used a textbook in math, science or social studies in two years. Instead, I design rich and meaningful experiences for my students that engage them in learning. Instead of replacing textbooks each year, why don’t you just find me an additional teacher who will help provide more of these experiences for my students?

Administrators would visit classrooms every day!

I am fortunate to work in a school where I see my principal in my classroom almost every single day. She slides in to say Hello. She stops and talks to some special students, providing encouragement and a visual reminder of their own accountability. Sometimes she just sits down to listen, observe and participate. She doesn’t ask me questions; she asks the students! I have also worked in schools that were the polar opposite. My students could not have picked the principal out of a line-up of business suits. He was rarely in the building, let alone in my classroom. He had no context around which to base my formal observations, and I had to constantly explain everything I was hoping to do within an entire framework of what was going on inside my classroom walls. I think that it should be obvious which of these two schools is more successful – both in terms of community and of academics. Seeing my principal in my classroom and interacting with my students communicates the feeling that she values what is going on in the lives of her teachers and her students. This breeds buy-in and success!

No More Tenure!

I have been teaching for 10 years and have never achieved tenure. Whoa. Snicker snicker you might be thinking. I have moved a lot. So what? Not having tenure means what? I have to be observed four times per year? I am not “guaranteed” a job next year? I have to be on my best every day? I’m not sure where the problem is here. Why shouldn’t teachers be and feel accountable? The consequences of we, teachers, NOT being at our best is devastating.

Teachers Would Get Paid More!

Ok, ok. I’m a teacher. I’m married to a teacher. We don’t exactly have the bi bucks rolling into our house. It’s not that I want more, more, more. But think about it… How many teachers do you know that work two and three jobs to make ends meet? Too many… especially those who are first starting out. Our teachers come to work tired because they were waiting tables until midnight. Many can’t attend regular and applicable professional development opportunities because they are working these extra jobs. I will admit that I’ve been guilty of putting a kid on hold once or twice as I was checking my bank account online to figure out how much I could afford to pay the cafeteria for the kids’ lunch accounts. Based on a teacher’s sphere of influence and the importance of children receiving their education from a teacher who is at his/her best, I think easing the financial burden of educators is essential to finding and keeping the best teachers.

Have fun!

If you aren’t having fun and loving the kids, go home!

6 Responses

  1. I wish I had added the same ones to my list, because these are definitely changes worth making! I especially like the idea of doing away with textbooks, which is such an enormous budget drain. Textbook companies are trying to add technology components, but they’re way behind. Creative teachers like you are passing them by! In one regard, though, I don’t think textbooks should be totally abandoned. It may be good to have a class set available and a teacher’s edition. Reading in the content areas is a weakness for many middle and high schoolers, and teaching this skill online is sometimes contrary to the task.

    Don’t even get me started on tenure! I know so many energetic, motivated, innovative, and dedicated teachers, and tenure doesn’t even enter their minds. Then I know so many near-dead, bitter, lazy, and even abusive teachers who cling to tenure like a hiding place! I’m all for pay for performance (by rubric and observations, not by student scores alone), with tenure considered only as pay step grades and first-choice rights in things like good parking spaces or sweet spot classrooms.

    Thanks for the mention in your post and thanks mostly for your great ideas!

  2. I teach at a private school in South Africa, but one with a limited budget. We don’t write in textbooks, but keep them in the classroom and lend them to kids for a year, and then re-use them each year thereafter. But we use textbooks very seldom, preferring to prepare our own lessons, and I think we do an excellent job. When necessary, we give the kids a worksheet or some notes, but a lot of the lessons might be practical, or in the computer room, or on the interactive whiteboard, or groupwork (heads together) where they follow the instructions (written on a board, verbal, or a typed sheet) and produce one piece of work to hand in. I do think that’s the way to go. But, of course, there’s a lot of money invested in textbooks, and any decision reducing someone else’s money is always unpopular, isn’t it.

  3. A great post, and of interest to all educators. If I were in charge the focus of the whole department would be self management and personal responsibility, of students and adults!There are some marvellous strategies/theories to help this process, such as Choice Theory and Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP).

    Administrators wages would not exceed those on the ‘chalk face’, ensuring our really good teachers stay in the classroom. The system I am in encourages those wanting to improve their income to move out of the classroom.

    The word teacher is defunct! Yes, ok, I have gone and said it! Good practitioners facilitate and are learners these days, those still using traditional methods seem to have ‘behavioral issues’ more so than facilitators, who have dynamic/interesting classrooms and programs.

    Please see my blog for the 15 Critical Traits of a Remarkable Teacher

  4. I always enjoy reading what you write, and it always makes me think. I know we are in the midst of a great transition in education, and I can’t help but wonder how it will affect my business, which will have to change with it. I sell paper versions of workbooks and reproducible educational materials. I am wondering how long teachers will still be using these. When I was teaching we would have given anything to have such materials instead of typing ditto masters for everything. The technology available today wasn’t even dreamed of when I taught in the late 1960’s. The excellent teachers do the best with what they have and make up the rest.

    I see that the educational publishers who are my suppliers, Evan-Moor, Steck-Vaughn, Creative Teaching Press, Teacher Created Materials, Edupress, Educational Impressions, Frank Schaffer, Scholastic, Garlic, and such, all seem to be trying to keep up with the latest state and national standards, and they are continuing to offer new products 2-4 times a year. What does the future look like for such materials, in your opinion? It seems if these were expected to be obsolete in a matter of a couple of years, they would not continue to make research-based updates. Some are beginning to offer software products and eBooks, but most of them still focus on paper materials. Now it seems the direction is free on-line resources. Is there still a place for the kind of materials these publishers continue to produce in the modern tech-savy classroom?

    I would appreciate your input and that of your readers.

  5. […] Uncategorized My Twitter friend Barbara Radisavljevic recently responded to my blog post “If I Were in Charge.” In this post, one of the points that I made was that I would get rid of textbooks. I am […]

  6. Great post and good knowledge for all students.. I have read your post. i will visit again .. Thank you

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