The resilience of teacher culture

Image: Crystal by louisa-catlover made available on flickr by a creative commons license.

I found this little video (link at bottom of post) through Dr. Scott McLeod’s blog dangerously irrelevant

It is a speech given by Dr. Richard Elmore and it is a sobering description of a present reality in today’s schools that cries out to me in strong terms the need for change, for structural change, in the way we do things.

Here is Dr. McLeod’s commentary from his blog post of July 02, 2007:

“One of the reasons Dr. Elmore’s speech speaks to me so much is that it raises quite vociferously the issue of misalignment. In my work with schools and districts, I see numerous examples of misalignment, including:

  • classroom pedagogy that fails to regularly employ high-yield instructional strategies to achieve optimal results;
  • professional development plans that are based on teachers’ preferences rather than students’ needs;
  • staffing plans that fail to put the best teachers in front of the students who need them the most;
  • intra-organization funding decisions that fail to put resources where they are most needed;
  • a lot of wasted instructional time;
  • and so on (I’m guessing that you can add to this list!)…

We say that we want results. We say that we want high levels of achievement for all students. But we are not doing what it takes to achieve the results that we say we want.”

The comment I left in reference to this post was:

I appreciated listening to this speech and reading your comments. They are very much in line with my own thoughts on the matter.

I am discovering, in working with different school communities, that in order to shift the incredibly resilient teacher culture towards a culture that makes sense for student learning I need to access individual teacher’s values and passions around teaching, around caring and helping. I need to make their own learning make sense for them.

The Resilience of Teacher Culture

Up for a challenge, anyone?

here, by accident, at a Physics blog by teacher Dean Baird. I’ve bookmarked it.

Hmmm – I like this kind of a challenge!

Helping educators become more supportive of
students is critical, but doing so produces more significant
improvements in student learning when combined with high expectations
and rigorous instruction.

The challenge
now becomes how to create the conditions that allow such solutions to
flourish together and how to get them into the communities and high
schools that need them the most. High school reform is achievable. But
if reformers are to be successful, they must leave very little to

from Surprise — High School Reform Is Working By Thomas Toch, Craig D. Jerald, and Erin Dillon, Phi Delta Kappan, Feb. 2007

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a special place closes

Private Weston School closes after 90 years

The Gazette

Published: Friday, June 22, 2007

I worked at Weston for 5 years – almost 4 as their high school resource coordinator and teacher, and about 1.5 as a substitute teacher when I was back in school myself. It was a special place where everyone strived for excellence in one form or another. Its closing is a great loss.

At the closing ceremonies, last Thursday evening, a student, who entered the school in Grade 7 as a shy girl who was virtually disabled by her dyslexia, won one of the school’s top awards. She is entering CEGEP in the fall in Child Care Studies. I shed quite a few tears at that closing ceremony….

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classroom management taken a step (or 2) too far

Image: Tantrum by Chirag Rathod made available on flickr via a creative commons license.

Kindergartner Charged With Felony Tantrum

A school called the police on a child in kindergarten who was having a temper tantrum. The child was arrested and a police report was written. I’d love to know the rationale behind that, or perhaps it is good I don’t. It is an example of how the end can never justify the means when it comes to teaching children. Regardless of the rationale, this little child – who was obviously already upset – spent the day at a police station, was handcuffed!

This again points to our need as a system of education to provide teachers and schools with the support they need to deal with difficult situations. And if the support isn’t there – we need to create it.

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To middle school or not to middle school?

“…some middle school experts argue that school reconfiguration is a
costly distraction from what adolescents really need: smaller classes,
an engaging curriculum, personalized attention and well-prepared

I agree!

Instead of looking at complicated school reconfigurations, I would take a much more grass-roots approach. No matter where they are, children in middle-school need classes tailored to their needs – as Patrick Montesano stated in the passage I quoted above, from

Taking Middle Schoolers Out of the Middle

By ELISSA GOOTMAN Published: January 22, 2007 in the New York Times.

(you may need an account to view the article. If you don’t have one, sign up already! It’s free!)

The article talks about k-8 schools, 6-8 schools, 6-12 schools. I think that looking at structure change is talking around the issue. We need to be looking at good, solid teaching and administrative practice that is based in research about how middle school students learn. Just like any other level should have good solid professional practice based in current research that is specific to them.

No matter where they are, if the teachers who work with them are using methods such as differentiated instruction that looks towards students’ learning styles, interests, abilities and knowledge as a starting point to plan activities that point towards specific goals or competencies, then we’d be onto something!

(picture from article cited above)

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