I did not realize just how important perspective was until becoming a school administrator. Over the past several months I have been reminded of the importance of perspective in life. As a public school administrator I am constantly having to look at situations from the perspectives of others. Why? Because I need to understand the importance of the decisions I make.
Working in public schools means that you must serve all points of view and all perspectives. Those points of view and those perspectives are not always going to see eye to eye. Sometimes those points of view and perspective challenge your own thinking. How do you handle those differences in your school? In your classroom? In your decision making processes?
We all come with our own set of experiences that shape our thinking and our perspectives. Some of us are more experienced than others but that does not mean we cannot take the time to see the views of others. In fact, we must take the time to see the views of others because that is the only way we can really understand each other. As educators, we also must help our students learn to see the views of others. This is important to grow and develop a civilized society that can respect the perspectives of others, even when we disagree.
Sometimes I think we have lost sight of the importance of perspective in our culture. The need to be right. The desire to be the one to share the news first. The feeling we get when we think we know better than someone else. All of these situations occur when we do not see other’s perspectives.
Shortly before retiring from public school work Dr. Eddie Coulson said that if he learned one thing in his time as a superintendent, it was the need to listen. Listen to the point of view of others. Seek to understand where others are coming from. Don’t be quick to make decisions. Be quick to listen.
His advice was simple but extremely powerful.
Recently there have been issues come across my desk or in my email inbox that have required me to make a choice. My choice was to make a decision based off the limited information available to me or to take the time to gather more information, have conversations to gain more perspective, and then make a decision. I have learned that if I do not seek other perspectives, then I am failing to understand before working to be understood.
When I do not take the time to learn the perspectives of others am I really serving the interest of all of those that I serve?
Think. Achieve. Succeed.
Take a couple of minutes to read the paragraphs above that came from this article in the Atlantic. The article is about a Finnish teacher that experiences what it is like to be a teacher in America.
Now take several minutes to think about what you just read. How does it make you feel? What are your thoughts about that? Did you realize this is even a problem in our schools?
Teachers are so rushed and so busy during their day that they do not have time to sit, think, process, and be creative in their own profession during working hours. We expect teachers to do that outside of the working day. On their own time. What other profession is purposfully structured this way -- having professionsals work outside of the work day to be prepared for the coming work day?
It is true in most schools in America. We wonder why teacher burnout it such an issue.
“If you asked me now, my answer would be that most likely I would not continue in this career.”
There are many reasons that we have arrived at this point in our schools today. Federal accountability, state accountability, budget constraints, funding shortages, teacher shortages, politics, policies based upon local concerns and so on. These are valid reasons and issues.
Issues such as these have caused districts and schools to reduce planning periods to one period a day. Most of the issues causing the reduction in planning is related to funding shortages and testing accountability. It costs money to have planning periods. Kids have to be in a classroom, somewhere on the campus, each period. If teachers are scheduled to not have students then there has to be a place for students to go where there are adults. That master scheduling 101.
Accountability pressures on schools have made it a bad thing to have teachers "not doing anything" during the day. That is what some people think teachers are doing during their conference period... nothing. Well, nothing could be further from the truth.
The business approach to running schools is that we must have teachers in classrooms all day long, teaching kids. That is what they are supposed to do right? Teach? Of course it is! But they also need time to plan, collaborate, create, observe, and prepare their lessons.
Yes, teachers have a conference period but often they are filled with mandatory meeting that are either federal, state, or local requirements or they have legal paperwork that needs to be completed or they have to contact parents about issues and concerns related to schools... and the list could go on.
It is what it is. We are here.
The great news is we do not have to stay here.
I am a realist. I understand the current situations of education in my school, district, state, and at varying levels, the nation. I understand that the issues listed above are real and are not going away anytime soon. But I also know that we have so much room to operate within the constraints that exist in our schools.
We have to be willing to look and see what we can change within the current system and the actually make those changes. I expect that from my teachers. I think that it is time that we all expect that from our school systems as a whole.
What are we waiting for? The status quo to change? We are the status quo. We must make the changes necessary to help our teachers.
We owe it to our students. We owe it to our teachers. We owe it to our communities.
What are you willing to change within your current constraints?
Think. Achieve. Succeed.
Director of Instruction and Leadership Development
Do what you can, with what you have, where you are
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