Dean Shareski, an educator and blogger that I respect greatly, recently reflected on the change efforts in his district, writing:
I also get to spend a great deal of time with our superintendents and other leaders in our division and to a person, they all want to create a division where students succeed, teachers are great and everyone loves their job…This is all good but simply telling people they need to change isn’t a great formula for success. Not that that has been the case but when I talk to teachers I’m hearing the same message.
"It’s too much"
"It seems the only things that are valued are Reading and Math"
"I feel like everything I’m doing is wrong"
"I’m not sleeping well"
"I need time to implement"
Something’s very wrong when a whole bunch of good people all trying to do what’s best for kids feel like this.
What's really frightening is that Dean's observations are pretty much spot on: Most teachers I know feel overwhelmed and undervalued. The pace of change in our schools is nearly crippling—and it is driving practitoners out of the classroom.
I’m a prime example: I’ve never wanted to be anything but a classroom teacher–and have turned down a dozen opportunities to work beyond the classroom to stay true to that commitment. But I’m actively considering getting out—and I’m nearly at the point where I'm willing to do anything EXCEPT teach: consultant, college professor, instructional resource teacher etc.
What I’ve seen happen in my work is that I still have all of the traditional teaching tasks to manage—grading papers, planning lessons, communicating with parents—-AND I’ve got to wrestle through countless efforts to redesign teaching at the same time. Nothing has been taken away.
I see this as an example of an imagination/implementation gap: The well-intentioned people crafting plans for our schools have forgotten just how hard classroom teaching really is. The ideas they propose are all valid, but they're also nearly impossible to put into action unless classroom teachers are willing to work way, way beyond expectations.
Does this resonate with anyone besides me?