A Simple Request

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.

7 Responses to “A Simple Request”

  1. Great site, all for open dialogue as a vehicle for change in our educational system!! Come visit edu-linx.com and dialogue about grass roots education issues, for parents, staff and all educarers!!
    Dr Howard
    Poverty is Not a Learning Disabbility, Corwin Press 2019

  2. I agree that we need to open communication lines between students-staff-administrator-parents, etc… but really when is the last time you saw a fortune 500 company broadcast a meetings of their executive staff. Do you think this will really solve the problems of schools today, of mistrust between teachers and administrators.

  3. @ Shelly

    I agree with you up to a point. Schools where students are involved are most likely better happier places than the institutions that have given birth to the movie “War on Kids” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nlnwm11d6II

    I’m a school administrator in a Catholic High School of 800 students. I teach a class a day as well. I think I practice collaborative leadership with our staff. We have a student appeal board for level one discipline infractions a house system that provides ample student engagement but there are certainly limits to what a reasonable person would hand over to the children.

    I’m sure you wold agree. I don’t want my meetings with a family struggling with domestic abuse broadcast to the other classrooms. I don’t want staffing discussions discusses with students. (Program selection maybe but not individual staffing) In the end I think we all like the fact that there is someone in charge. We may disagree with a number of their decisions but in the end someone makes the decisions that have to be made.

    Don’t get me wrong I’m all for empowering students and teachers and the power of collaboration. But in the end the school leaders job is not about building rosy consensus and making everyone smile. The job is about advancing the mission of the school. The real power any administrator holds is the ability to fire and hire and those two tools alone are the most powerful in shaping school culture. I don’t mean that to sound crass but it is the reality. You need the right people to make meaningful change happen.

  4. I like where you’re coming from – transparency and openness are good things to strive for.

    I agree with Charlie though. When I try to imagine all admin meetings being publicly broadcast, I think of watching politicians debate.
    For one, watching one isolated debate to make an informed decision usually misses a lot of background. For the other, we also need to have an element of trust in the prople living and breathing their work responsibilities on a daily basis. We can’t let everyone be part of every decision.
    Perhaps a once-a-fortnight video discussing any public requests that have come into administration?

  5. Ah, a breath of fresh air!

    Let’s all remember that one can lead a horse to water, but cannot make them drink. To force our student to go to school, does not mean they will be willing to learn in confinement.

    And the same goes for respect as well. When we show respect to our students by including them in decision that affect them directly, they will in turn respect us as well.

  6. Finally the rebellion, Shelly. Carpe Diem!
    Just say no!!

  7. An Idea…what would students and parents say about professional development topics. Would be interesting to see if they would agree or have other ideas. What do our students, parents, and public think teachers need to work on. I want to ask this question and now just might.

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