What do teachers need from administrators?
Inherent in that question, I see a fundamental problem with education both in public schools and in private schools. And that is that we have created a distinction between teachers and administrators and have allowed for the acceptance of a system of hierarchies developed more on a division of labor than a recognition of competencies.
For longer than anyone can remember, the educational-industrial-complex has allowed that distinction to be the rule and in doing so we have created for the most part a system — educational and cultural — that fosters rule-acceptance as a virtue, jealousy as a norm, and direly energy-sapping faculty lounges as a rule while ignoring basic human competencies of love, compassion, and service of the variety that doesn’t ask for something in return.
We are all hypocrites. I include myself in that category foremost. We talk about changing things, but for the most part that talk exists within the conceptual vacuum of the current system — even when we think we’re thinking outside-of-the-box. Because it’s always about our arguments and our better methods and our better ideas and our better mousetraps. And while we argue over testing and technology and models of leadership and school branding, we ignore the voices of those who have the most stake in this confused system: the students.
Where are the student voices on your school board? Where are the student voices on your board of directors? Where are the student voices in your faculty meetings, your administration meetings, your parent-teacher association meetings?
And I’m not talking about the nominal “good student” who gets a nominal place at the table. I’m talking about the student body — that community that comprises the heart of why your school exists. I’m talking about the voices of your valedictorian and lowest-ranking student alike.
And so, given the present system, what would I as a teacher — and as a parent of three — want from my administrators?
I’d like them to make transparent all conversations and allow student engagement in every aspect of school policy. At very least, I’d like to see every admin meeting broadcast to a schoolwide e-video channel live with a real-time backchannel inclusive to any student who wishes to participate. I’d like to see the same for all faculty meetings. I’d like to see the same for all teacher evaluations. Yes, I want students involved hands-on in teacher evaluations. I want our students to see what goes on in all of those endless meetings and I want our students to be able to respond and offer their voices, ideas, opinions, and criticisms in real-time and publicly — no matter who they are and no matter what they have to say.
I have a simple request.
Let’s cut out the hierarchy. Let’s let radical open culture reign. Let’s destroy fear. Let’s allow new ways of thinking to create themselves.
A simple request.
Shelly Blake-Plock is a teacher and parent in Maryland. He writes the TeachPaperless.com blog and has been making crazy requests and often getting in trouble for making them for a really long time now.