Monday, 19 December 2011

The elephant in the room

This is going to be a post that will evolve over time, I came across this blog post this evening which has got me thinking about the difficulties of teachers evolving in schools with technology. - by Derek

Consider the following notes so I can get my thoughts in order, they are direct quotes from the link above.
  • The avoiders – "I'll make time for the ICT PD once I've done everything I need to for NCEA implementation…
  • The excuse makers – "My laptop has never functioned properly, so I can't really do that.."
  • The apologists – "I just don't seem to be able to make it work, it must be my glasses or something…"
  • The debaters – "We really need to be sure we're using the technology for the right reasons, not simply because it's there…"
  • The pessimists – "Technology is leading us down a road to destruction, there are so many problems lurking online…"
Consider now the case in a school, where, after consultation with the staff and parents, the decision is made to establish an online environment where resources and learning support can be made available for students to access in their own time. The school and its community agree that this is a positive thing to do in supporting students to become self-managing learners, and provides parents with the ability to take a more active interest in the work their offspring are engaged in. The action is included in the school's strategic plan and signed off by the BOT, with the expectation that every staff member will make a contribution to the online resource pool in order to make the online offerings complete. How do we then regard the teacher who, at the end of the  year, hasn't made any move to contributing, and defends his/her position with excuses/apology/debate etc.? No student has died. No student has been put at risk (apparently). But the fact remains that an expectation, agreed by the BOT and school management hasn't been met.

This is the elephant in the room. We don't want to offend sensitivities. We make excuses for the teacher(s) involved – they are overworked, they are too old (or too young), they have had a rough year, etc. Other staff attempt to 'fill the gap'. Resentments loom large and rifts begin to occur among staff. Expectations are revised, and in the subsequent year's strategic plan putting materials online for students becomes an 'option' for staff. The refusers win, and the learners lose.
Having heard of and witnessed such concerns for some time now, I have come to the following conclusions:
  1. It's time for leaders to lead. They must be prepared to take responsibility for following through on the strategic goals set by the school. These are not to be treated as a 'wish list', but as a plan containing specific actions and expectations backed up by evindence-based decision making.
  2. Every teacher should be be provided with opportunities for professional development that is relevant to their needs, and assists them in fulfilling the requirements of the job they do. Without it, such requirements become un-enforceable.
  3. Schools need to have a robust process for involving all staff and their communities in developing a vision and strategic plan, particularly where new initiatives are contemplated. Such decisions need to be reached on the basis of informed, future-focused thinking that is focused primarily on preparing students for their future.
  4. Teachers in schools need to be held to account for the contribution they are expected to make to the agreed strategic direction of the school. there ought to be clear links between the intentions of the school's strategic plan, and the objectives included in a teacher's performance review at the beginning of each cycle.
Such instances in schools may be rare – but where they do occur, it is the impact on students that I am concerned about – and of schools who remain continually unable to achieve the goals they set for themselves in terms of meeting their students needs. How much longer can this be tolerated?

No comments: