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Thursday, October 20, 2011

How many district people does it take to screw in a lightbulb

How many district people does it take to screw in a light bulb, sorry, make that hold a workshop.

If you went to a workshop on IEP compliance last week it took seven, one to give the presentation, a 105 page power point, and six to drink coffee, file their nails, look bored and e-mail principals to tell them which teachers were late. When my colleagues returned, to a person they told me how useless it was and that the district people had no idea what it was like to be in the classroom.

As I was listening to their tales of not being able to ask questions, being talked down to and being treated like they were idiots, I had an epiphany. That’s a flash of insight that might just save education and at the same time make things better for teachers and students alike. My solution is simple too, it’s everybody teaches. Everybody in a certificated position should have to teach at least one class.

Any argument saying that non-teachers already have too much to do just doesn’t fly, especially when so many teachers are already working fifty hour weeks, giving up both their free and family time and doing so for salaries considerably less than district people.

My bet is that most district people and administrators wouldn’t want to do it, that they have come to a point in their careers where they feel they are above teaching and because of this students and teachers will continue to pay the price for it. I sincerely wish they would prove me wrong.

One of the biggest problems we have here in the district is that there are so many people who don’t teach and who only have a peripheral relationship with students. Instead of teaching, this layer of bureaucracy’s whole point of being seems to be just to make life more difficult for teachers, though they use the euphemism “providing support”.

They have no idea what it takes to make lesson plans, data notebooks or write IEP’s along with the million or so other things teachers are expected to do, while at the same time being expected to teach. They come into your children’s schools and say to their teachers, schedule this meeting, write that report or fill out those forms as if we have nothing else to do and as if those things are easy to do.
Well school district in case you didn’t know it, in case you didn’t have a clue, we do have something else to do and it’s called teaching. And it shouldn’t be up to teachers “to figure it out” which is what one of the district people told one of my fellow teachers to do when asked where we were supposed to find the time to do all the new tasks they wanted us to do.

Unrealistic expectations of teachers are only one of the problems that people who don’t work in classrooms have.

While at a meeting to discuss the status of our school a teacher asked, “I am not sure what the administrators do, I am pretty sure they do something but I don’t know what it is. They get here after me, they leave before me, I take home piles of work and they take home their purses, I honestly don’t know what they do.” This did not come from me, this came from another teacher who in our four years working together I had never hear say more than two words before.

Another teacher added,” if you don’t like what one coach says to you, ask another coach, eventually you will get an answer you like.” I can tell you for a fact it’s the same way with district support people all over the county. I have been in meetings and actually seen district people argue over a point.

If you are not in a classroom, if you haven’t experienced the disrespect from children, been overwhelmed by the endless tasks, and haven’t had your hands tied preventing you from doing what you know is best for your children, then you can’t really know how it is. You can have a feeling, you can have empathy, you can have an idea but you can’t know and the district definitely doesn’t know, if they did I imagine things would be different.

At the schools deans would no longer send disrespectful defiant and disruptive children back to classes without meaningful consequences if they had to experience those behaviors firsthand. Principals would no longer require complicated lesson plans or data notebooks volumes long if they had to write and create them themselves. Coaches would know what works and what doesn’t work in a classroom because they would be there trying it out instead of just giving suggestions off of power points.

District people would no longer change the rules or procedures half way through a term if it affected them. They would have the map tests ready at the beginning of the year because they know it would affect their bonus pay. They wouldn’t require word walls if they had to maintain them, they wouldn’t require universal board configurations if they had to create them, they would also be quicker to answer questions if they had there’s ignored. Also district people wouldn’t come into classrooms unannounced without introducing themselves and walk around with frowns on their faces interrupting the teaching process if they knew it could happen to them. Then most importantly they would be better equipped to figure out what worked if they were forced like teachers are now to do what doesn’t.

District people would report to a school most likely at the beginning of the work day to teach a class. Then they would be responsible for everything from lessons to parent teacher conferences to everything in between. Furthermore they should have to go to failing or turn around schools, so they can see what most teachers have to go through. Coaches and administrators already assigned to schools could stagger what classes they teach throughout the day, that way there would always be somebody available.

Think of all the other benefits too. Class sizes at the struggling schools would be smaller. Supposed experts in the field could now put their knowledge directly into the classrooms. District people could meet students and parents and local coaches and administrators could build solidarity with the staff.

If something doesn’t change teachers may eventually “figure it out.” That’s figure out that they are being taken advantage of, figure out that they aren’t appreciated and figure out that enough is enough.


  1. I agree 100%. Well said !

  2. First of all, I am not a teacher, but I agree with all of your statement. Part of the problem is DTU. In my opinion,they are doing nothing for teachers.

    Elementary teachers now have lunch room duty. They are cleaning slop,have little or no time to eat and have very little time for planning during the school day.When called, DTU referred me to my school board member for help.

    Once, during lunch at a restaurant, I listened to three elementary administrators talking about how to catch teachers screw up. It was horrific! They were talking about minor details that absolutely no one would notice (like going over 1 minute on a lesson).

    These teachers are wonderful people and it is sad to watch them put through the unnecessary rigors they endure because of their dedication to education and children.

  3. I agree with some of what you have said. However, your comments about "district staff" does not apply to everyone. As a school psychologist, you should know that many of us currently make less than teachers. In fact, some school psychologists make $10 less an hour in my district. This equals about $9,000 less per year on the 10 month contract, while working longer days and not getting paid for lunch, as teachers do! I know of several district people that work many hours at home, including my supervisor. Additionally, many school psychologists have to write psychological reports after school hours and during weekends in order to be available during the day at schools.

  4. You are right and I apoligize if i offended you.

  5. I am also considered administration or "District Staff" and let me assure you that the grass is not greener on my side. I am paid the same as a first year teacher having been with the county for more than six years and to top that off, I am a 12 month employee and boy a 2 month break sound really good to me. You talk about DTU well, we have nobody watching our back or fighting for us; we are on a yearly contract and if we do not perform… It’s just a goodbye and take care. I am no longer reimbursed on mileage, I NEVER take a lunch for myself, I haven’t seen a raise in over 4 years and I am expected to answer an email immediately whether it be Weekend or Night time. As for the extra work you’re asked of, you must know that a good 75% of the requests are not made here in our county yet trickle down from Tallahassee in a stream teachers never see nor do they want to. So please, do not alienate an entire group of employees, if there are individuals whom offend you or you find lacking professionalism, please know, that employee reports to somebody, and that somebody would love to hear about it. Anyone can be looked up on the internal global address book through Outlook. We are all in the same boat and we can’t plug the hole with a pointing finger.