Sunday, April 04, 2010

No Teacher Left Behind? - A Guest Post

A member of my PLN requested an opportunity to do an anonymous guest post. I am more than happy to provide this space to help, especially as I feel very strongly about the topic. My response, if there is no one to blaze trails, then no ever finds a better path.

Last week I was having a conversation with my administrator about how to personalize professional development for the teachers in my building. My school is very small so providing personalized learning opportunities for each staff member is reasonable. I asked how we make sure each teacher receives the kind of training they need in order to continue growing. I remarked that most of my learning takes place on my own time through my personal learning network. His response was that he does not want one teacher to be way out front while the rest are way behind. It isn't fair to the students that some of them get to do things in your class that they cannot do in their other classes."

Really? What does that even mean? I interpreted to mean that I need to apply the brakes and put my brain on ice until the other teachers catch up and that isn't likely to happen anytime soon. Why? Because I spend hours of my own time learning and growing. It is how I choose to invest a great deal of my free time. The other teachers, while not opposed to learning new things, are not passionate about it. For the most part their day begins at 7:30 and ends when they walk out the door. With the limited opportunities provided during the school year there is no way the others can catch up unless they decide to invest their own time. While they are experts in their subject matter their understanding of how to integrate technology into their classrooms is very limited. This happens to be my greatest strength.

I am left wondering what I am supposed to do. Am I supposed to not utilize my skills because my coworkers don't know how to do the same things I do? Am I expected to stagnate while I wait for them to catch up? I have offered to teach them, but there is never enough time. (This year has been crazy at my school and there really hasn't been time.)

How can a district claim to be progressive when they are asking those at the forefront to stop blazing trails? What kind of administrator tries to stand in the way of a passionate teacher who is committed to being a life-long learner? What message are we sending to both students and teachers when we basically tell people to stop learning?

Who else has experienced something similar to this? I am anxious to hear how you handle being asked to stop growing.


wbasinger said...

I have had a similar conversation with my department chair. When you are so far in front, some people want you toslow down rather than speed up themselves. I just stopped focusing on the teachers, and now I just get the students involved with technology. I offered to teach a technology class, and I am using it to push students to take control of their own learning using Web2.0. Now that same department chair is asking if my students can work on special projects. Show the value to the students and parents, and the teachers and administrators will have to come along (or at least get out of the way).

Jethro said...

I can't say that I have ever been asked to stop progressing, but i do have a couple comments.

If it is not fair that students aren't getting the same extra skills in other classes then the admin should make sure that they get brought up to speed.

If i were an administrator, i would seek out those people that are willing to spend their own extra time improving their teaching. And while I strongly believe that there is nothing wrong with working only your contracted hours, I would rather have an employee who is willing to spend extra time learning and developing.

Personally, I spend the extra time to make sure that I am indisposable.

I think it is crazy that an administrator would ever tell you to stop doing what is best for your students.

Brainy Bunch said...

Thanks for posting this. My favorite line is "if there is no one to blaze trails, then no ever finds a better path." My administrator has a similar viewpoint as yours. If a parent says one word about "why isn't my child doing that project" then I shouldn't do it for my students. I'm extremely frustrated and sad that something I (and my colleagues)see as one of my greatest strengths is devalued. I wish I had an answer - still searching for it. At this point I'm thinking retirement from my district - then I can find a job where I'm allowed to be creative and have the freedom to push further.

Natalie Wojinski said...

Thanks for this post. My comment became so long that it over-burdened the system. Apparently, this struck more of a chord than I originally thought. I have posted my rather verbose thoughts at my blog, EZ Tech Integration for Teachers. It can be found at this address: