The Torrid Pace of Change

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?

12 thoughts on “The Torrid Pace of Change

  1. Clix

    I don’t know, Bill… The person who comes to mind as I read this is the restaurant owner who teases us from time to time about how much vacation we get. (We’re regulars.) And this would bother me except that he is there every. single. day.
    Granted, I don’t have a whole lot of perspective – I know I’m working harder now than I was, say, ten years ago, because that was back when I wasn’t a teacher!
    My thought is, we can’t do the impossible. I set goals that I think I can reach, and I go for those. I make sure I know exactly what our district REQUIRES and ensure that those goals are on my list. But if my district is asking more than is possible, then I know I’m not the only one who’s not going to meet those goals. So I’m not going to stress about it.
    Ditto with NCLB/RTTT. We didn’t meet AYP last year. O noes! Much hullabaloo. Except me – I’m not all that concerned; I know that there are a number of schools that’re even further behind. Rather than worrying, I’m going to watch them to see what happens, and plan to be prepared should the same events occur to our school.
    I am human, and I am quite content to be, even with the limitations that gives me.

  2. Tricia

    The sad part of all this is that we’re preaching to the choir. Until the rest of the country truly understands what we go through on a daily basis, nothing is going to change. We live in a culture of increased rudeness and disrespect for authority, and sadly I don’t see any changes on the horizon for the better. No matter how hard we try to get the public to understand what we deal with on a daily basis, all they see is “they get 3 months off in the summner.” It doesn’t matter that most of us are spending that time back in school, taking professional development classes, planning for the new year, or even taking on a part time job. I’ve been teaching for 16 years, and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thought about getting out of the profession in recent years. But like many of you, I can’t imagine not being a teacher.

  3. elubis

    My own frustration has grown and I feel your words as true to my own story as yours. I have reached the point where sleep is minimal at best and often restless. the never-ending lists of to-dos and to-don’ts run through my mind at all hours and my pursuit to keep abreast of the newest and best techniques leaves me in the dust before I even start. Add to that the responsibilities of maintaining licensure with additional degrees and inspiring new learners year after year with no compensation and decreasing respect in the community and I can’t blame you for wanting to jump ship. I’m right there with you.

  4. sweber

    Teaching has become a matter of teaching all students, differentiating instruction, collaborating with co-workers, and communicating with families via email, Twitter, blogs, and teacher created websites. Teachers use common assessment data, curriculum maps, EVAAS, credit recovery software, standards-based report cards, and positive behavior support programs. There has been a significant increase in the number of students diagnosed with Autism and the number of ESL/ELL students continues to grow. Teaching using culturally relevant teaching strategies is the new buzz word/phrase for teaching to multiple intelligences. Increasing student achievement using a bell curve is no longer accepted.
    Student growth is measured and teachers are told that if the student fails – The student did not fail the school, the school failed the student. A Pyramid of Interventions means that each student will receive a safety net with built-in support for academic and behavior which interferes with student achievement.
    I don’t know what to say….Blogs are a good way for educators to share best practices and to blow off steam. The bottom line is that when Monday morning comes, teachers like Bill Ferriter will be back in the classroom bringing history to life and making a difference!
    I want to share a few quotes from a book I just purchased.
    “Questions serve as the foundation for increasing individual, team, and organizational learning.”
    “Inquiry and collaborative action naturally go together. It is hard to collaborate with others without asking and answering questions.”
    “We live in a fast- paced,demanding, results-oriented world.”
    “No one person can master all the data needed to address the complex issues that confront today’s organizations.”
    Questions for Teachers:
    1. Does your team ask questions?
    2. Does your team have a professional ‘show and tell’ where people meet, but they don’t seek answers to the team’s questions?
    3. Are members of your team afraid or embarrassed to admit, “I don’t know how to help this student”?
    4. Does your team ask questions which disempower, such as:
    a. Don’t you agree with me on that?
    b. Don’t you think our students already know that information?
    c. Why are we meeting?
    5. Does your grade level or discipline have a clear purpose and clear goals that each teacher can aim for this year?
    Marquardt, M. (2005). Leading with questions: How leaders find the right solutions by knowing what to ask. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

  5. Bill Gaskins

    I see it and hear it daily. This is reality in teaching. I have been out of the classroom now for two years and I do miss it badly. I don’t miss all that stuff I use to put up with. I see that it is worse and more people watching what teachers are doing

  6. ginnyp

    “data” has become a four-letter word. We are all placing bets on when “PLT” and “RTI” and “PBS” will be replaced by new trends and new acronyms. Good theory but impossible to juggle it all plus teach 35 students in a class.

  7. Susan

    Yes,yes, yes. Teachers in my elementary school and in the schools throughout my district feel the same way. We are overwhelmed and are burning out fast. Something’s got to give and what it seems to be so far is the quality of our teaching. Assessments, data entry and interventions have taken over as priorities and the deadlines for data to be entered or submitted seem to come so fast and furious that we let a little more planning slip each week. I am not doing the students justice. This week is report card and parent conference week, two very important tasks that take (if done right) a huge amount of time to put together and carry out. Could we get a break this week with the progress monitoring data entry, etc.? No. One of my veteran colleagues said the other day that every time the principal or assistant walk in the room it feels like “death” because he feels like all they are going to say is that he’s missed a deadline for some data entry or scanning. And quite often they say it in front of the students! We have had it!

  8. Renee

    Dear God, yes. This is my fourth year and I am so overwhelmed, still, when things are supposed to be improving for me. I look around at the veteran teachers in my department and realize they are all working hours and hours and hours with the expectation being that we will somehow find the time to transform ourselves in the next generation of teachers.
    The frustration is reaching critical mass because the vast majority of my students are failing because they refuse to turn in the most basic of assignments. If they cannot sit in my classroom and copy the work from someone else, 85% are just taking a zero.
    Why am I working so hard?

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