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|MESPA President Kristine Stueve|
from MESPA President Kristine Stueve
Respect Teachers and
A Gentle Reminder
Dear MESPA Colleagues -- In the last two MESPA Advocates I have written about respect on different levels: in our professional lives (in September), and respecting ourselves by taking time to learn, network and relax (in December). This month I want to send you a message about respecting and showing appreciation for our teachers and staff members.
At first I thought, yes, this is a great idea. Then I thought, no, everyone already does this and I don't want to sound like I am preaching. Certainly, we all respect and appreciate our staff members! Finally, I thought, yes, because I know that I need a reminder about this and others probably do, too. So, friends, please take this as a gentle reminder. Let's ask ourselves: Are we being cheerleaders and champions for our teachers and staff? Are we doing what we can to show them that they are important to the success of our students and our schools?
Speaking at the recent 2012 National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) convention in Seattle, Dr. Diane Ravitch said that there are more and more demoralized teachers. Speaking about the increase in testing and accountability, Dr. Ravitch stated that test scores are being used as extrinsic motivators -- for punishment and rewards. Ravitch said that we are cutting out the things that bring students (and teachers?) joyfully to school because we have to test. When was the last time a student said, "I can't wait to get to school to test!"? I would venture a guess that our teachers may be finding it less joyful as well.
Dr. Ravitch stated that one in three teachers is "burning out,” that there is a 40-50% teacher turnover in their first five years. Teachers have either been fired or decide teaching is not for them. What other profession has 40-50% turnover in the first five years? Ravitch does not totally dismiss testing, but feels we need to be much more thoughtful about what we test, how we test and how we use test data. Her book, The Death and Life of the Great American School System, may be of interest to you.
Andrew Hargreaves, another speaker at the NAESP convention, states in his book The Fourth Way that: "Teachers are the ultimate arbiters of educational change. The classroom door is the open portal to innovation or the raised drawbridge that holds innovation at bay. No plan for sustainable educational change can ignore or bypass the teacher." The current way of education seems to be that teachers, principals, and school districts are all being bypassed as educational decisions are being made.
After hearing Dr. Ravitch and Dr. Hargreaves speak, and after reflecting on the accountability and evaluation measures being put into place in Minnesota, I believe it is more important than ever to remember that education is hard work! I also want to say that I believe all of our staff members are doing this hard work and feeling good about it even though many things have been taken out of our hands. How do we fight the demoralization of our staff? As principals we need to be cheerleaders and champions for our staff members. This is one of the most important things we can do each and every day.
Every year our teachers and staff members receive the message that they need to do more with less. Messages are being sent that teachers and schools need to do better or consequences will be implemented. It seems more and more curriculum, testing, standards, and legislation are heaped upon their plates. Just today, I sat through a meeting with our special education cooperative director who laid out numerous new rules that will cause our special education staff and others who are paid with special education funds to do more and more paperwork, with nothing being taken away!
Our children are coming to school with more and more needs each year. Many do not have the basic needs to allow them to be present to learn. Dr. Ravitch mentions that instead of putting our entire focus on testing and accountability, we need to put more focus on two root causes of low academic achievement: poverty and racial isolation.
Where would we be if not for all of these very significant teachers and staff members?
- Our teachers have become: nurses, counselors, social workers, and "parents". And after all of this, they are expected to bring all students to the same level of proficiency in reading and math.
- Our paraprofessionals work with some of our neediest students each and everyday. They diligently work as a part of a team to provide learning and behavior interventions consistently and effectively.
- Our administrative assistants support us and other staff members in the school. They are often the face of the school welcoming families, students, and community members as they enter our buildings.
- Our building maintenance staff members keep our buildings and grounds safe, clean and looking good. This is so important as a first impression to visitors.
- Our health staff support our students and teachers each day and assist with the overall health of our school communities.
As we approach the end of our school year, let's remember a very important week: Teacher Appreciation Week, May 7-11. At my school, as I'm sure at others, we celebrate teachers and our entire staff during that week. However, let's always remind ourselves that teachers and staff members deserve appreciation and respect throughout the year for the hard jobs they do, all for the benefit of our students.
Teacher Appreciation Week
As we approach the end of our school year, let's remember a very
important week: Teacher Appreciation Week, May 7-11.
At my school, as
I'm sure at others, we celebrate teachers and our entire staff during
that week. However, let's always remind ourselves that teachers and
staff members deserve appreciation and respect throughout the year for
the hard jobs they do, all for the benefit of our students.