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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school reform 101

Image: aafad 38/365 the name is lom… by lamont_cranston made available by a creative commons license on flickr.

I just read an article by accident, on addressing the issue of racism in school, because I was looking for a different article in the March 2003 issue of Phi Delta Kappan. That one wasn’t available but this one, Ending the Silence by Donna M. Marriott, is. The title intrigued me, and this bit yelled out to me:

classroom teachers are the only real agents of school reform. It is teachers who translate policy into action; who integrate the complex components of standards, curriculum, pedagogy, and assessment into comprehensible and pragmatic instruction; and who balance an ever-changing array of political, economic, social, and educational factors while trying to meet the individual needs of children.

That first line in particular screams truth. In order for us to create vibrant, learning-rich, successful classroom communities we need to start with teachers. Too often teachers are handed new sets of guidelines called reform that they are expected to carry out. Very often they fall flat. They have no meaning for anyone beyond the policy-makers who crafted them.

If teachers were involved in a process to improve their classrooms for the success of those in it – in a process that reached out to their values as teachers and as people, then there will be true reform.

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