This Page

has been moved to new address

Lead from the Start

Sorry for inconvenience...

Redirection provided by Blogger to WordPress Migration Service
Lead from the Start: March 2006

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Sticky Discipline

I am posting this link to a book review I just completed for TLN. It is especially timely because I had a student suspended last week. I wouldn't have asked for a referral for the boy but because the Principal became involved I had to comply. Maybe more later but I can say, the decision was not sticky for the principal.

Bottom of the page.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Relentlessly Positive

I have a new battle cry.
Relentlessly positive.
I encountered a new experience this past week when I got into a heated (not really heated more like micorwaved) conversation with a fellow teacher leader. It was microwaved because it was warm on the inside but cold on the outside and it was over really quick. (Ding!)
I have to say that I was being very irrational but some of what I said I meant. The chorus being, if you don't like what the school administration is doing. Talk to them about it behind closed doors. This teacher whom I respect a great deal, had been frustrated with our school environment. Instead of talking to the parties involved she held it for a long time, (it is March) and then started encouraging other teachers to transfer or leave. All of this served to get me in a serious funk about teacher leadership in general and my own practice in particular. Then I had a conversation with my instructional assistant. We talked about how to cope with negativity. Our conversation ventually lead to a mantra or battle cry (two very differenet things by the way.) We will just try to keep each other bouyant by being....
Relentlessly Positive.

Saturday, March 18, 2006


Another comment by Bill Ferriter prompted this writing.
Infallible Leader of our YouthBillI think it may go even farther than a myth. I think we, in America, have acycle of ingrained Hero creation and destruction that causes us to end uphating our leaders. I wonder how this concept may relate to our constantneed for school reform. "Back to Basics will save us!!" What aboutthe "WHole child!!" and whole language!! Outcomes based Education!! NOOStandards based education!! All of these reforms meant to save publicschools. Our school reform heroes. I have one for the "battle cry" .
Good teaching is good teaching!!
Maybe if the reform movement that I think we are creating here and across America, with accomplished teachers becoming leaders and taking up the mantle of "reflective practice." We can end the cycle of reform assasination. I have always been mystified by the anger and frustration that is aimed towards principals as school leaders. Most people I know hate their boss. I remember hating my cooperating teacher and then eventually growing to love her. Here I am with a student teacher and I can't help but wonder ifshe thinks I'm as crazy as I thought mine was. I have seen this assasination occur first hand when teachers have said "Wow, a national board certified teacher. Aren't you fancy."I think we have maybe even seen some of that struggle here when TLNmembers have discussed leaving the classroom for leadership and

Of course, as enlightned school leaders we know better but... But I think it may even be that these new school leaders are fearful that they will become one of "them." Those that can be "assassinated"I can't help but hope that this isn't the case. That these school leaderswho have the gumption to step out of the classroom to lead, will not feelthey are leaving the frontlines for the rear command but knocking down themyth that says we will always need another reform.I could go on and on but Joseph Cambell is telling me to shut up and watchthe movie. Luke Skywalker is about face-off against school reform.-----------

He got to leave the classroom

Subject: "He Got To Leave the Classroom"

Bill (Ferriter of N.C. and soon to be NAtional TOY "fingers crossed") is always dropping bombs.
He commented on a colleague who said that it was great he was going to be the reagional TOY because he might get to leave the classroom for a year.
"He go to leave the classroom" is a comment that has parametersattatched that aren't really addressed. THe rest of the comment is "for ayear." Because, of course, if you left the classroom for more than a year,you would be a sell out and we would have to say that "he crossed over tothe dark side of teacher leadership." Leaving to the classroom to improveedcation.THere is new position available in our area, (Richmond, VA) called, a beginning teacher advisor. If you get the job you, "Get to leave the classroom" for two years and then you are garaunteed (sp) a teaching position in your school division. WHile you are a BTA you mentor about 15
I might apply in a couple years. Truthfully, it might be the only way iwould leave the classroom at this point. I have so much fun teaching thekids and I feel like i am really getting better at it. I don\'t want toleave while i am on a roll. Also, it is highly unlikely I will ever benamed a teacher of the year as a HEad Start teacher. I am not likely to betapped to be Curriculum specialist, turn-around specialist, site basedprofessional devevelopment specialist or other type of "teacher Leader" on the dark side of teacher leadership. So, leaving temporarily, according to the logic of the comment is "Getting to."

LEaving to improve education is ....
.....John H."There are only two kinds of music. Good and bad."Ray Charles-----------------------------

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Thankful List

I am, of course, thankful for my students but, I am also thankful for mystudents' parents.

As a teacher of young children I am constantly remindedthat I am my students' second teacher even if I am their "first" teacher.

I am also thankful for the cosmic justice of the classroom, in which theteacher's pet can get in trouble for telling her friends that vampires aregoing to eat their parents and that the class clown gets accolades forhelping somebody tie their shoes.

Even as the teacher's pet is admired forher creativity and the class clown gets a sideways look for not lettinghis friend tie his shoes himself.

Back Stabbing

Nancy talked about leaving the classroom to be a teacher leader and becoming ridiculed by her former colleagues.

Here was my response.

I am sorry to hear your story. Just another sad one in a long history ofteacher back stabbing. Please understand that I speak with the sincerestirony about the dark-side of teacher leadership. Also know that I believewe are in the midst of an education reform. I want to term the reform ananti-reform, or the death of reform, or the Teacher Led Reform movement.When i look at education from the stand point of where it will be in 10-20-30- 130 years I see an end to this back stabbing.I have to say that much of the fear that comes through in my post ispersonal. I am just begining to step up to the plate as a teacher leaderin a school that is about to be taken over by the State Dept. of Ed. Yes,teachers will be replaced without requesting a transfer.I know I will beone of them, the ones that were not asked to leave, the ones that are apart of the organization that took someones job.I am also working with the local teacher ed. dept. on mentoring preserviceand begining teachers as well as supporting NBC candidates. I am steppingforward and watching my back.I know that I may lose something in the process (niavete sp?)but it willbe how I define my situation that determines if I am a part of a TeacherLed Reform or another casualty of the threshing machine that pulls us alldown.
With humor and a positive attitude mounatins are mole hills and and anysummit is achievable.(me)

Year around calendars

I am reading all of these comments and feeling that if I worked at themiddle school or highschool level that I would agree whole heartedly witha year round schedule. However, as a preschool/elementary level teacher,this would not work. I work with at risk 3-5 year olds in a southern inner-city. My students lose many of the social things I have taught them eachweekend. There is a constant 2 steps forward one step back. The winterbreak means I almost have to start over from scratch. AS socialdevelopment becaomes less of an issue and school becomes more contentdriven I think this makes sense but, at the lower levels it doesn't makesense. OF course kids lose over the summer but, atleast you can build fromthe grouond up in th fall.

John H

Martyr Complex

We got into a rahter hot discussion on the teacherleaders forum on this topic. For some reason, teachers either really like or really dislike being labeled a martyr. :)

Here was my take and several exchanges afterwards.


Am I a Martyr?

I am not sure this is the question that needs to be asked.I have found with many professional relationships that “complaining” comesfrom a place in the self that does not feel appreciated. Often this comesfrom a fear of saying what you (the professional) should be appreciated for.For example, I am not afraid to say, “I taught a child to read in the last14 month’s whose mother does not know how to read.” I have told so manypeople this story I am sick of hearing it myself. I told my wife, myprincipal, my family, my friends, and my professional colleagues (and nowyou). I am proud of myself and not afraid to say it. I also know I made adifference to that child and her mother.I have always felt appreciated as a teacher. (Maybe I don’t get out much).Anyone in the profession knows what we do and why we are in this profession.Anyone outside the profession appreciates what I do and that they couldnever do it themselves.Is teaching altruistic? YesIs teaching appreciated? YesAre teachers paid well enough? NoThe issues become confusing/frustrating/difficult when the third element isbrought in to the equation. $Money$. Does money = appreciation?If, as a society, we were to base pay on what society appreciated then,teachers would be right up there with doctors. But, that is not how Americansociety functions. We live in a capitalist society. Doctors earn more thanteachers because there is immediate and obvious risk to visiting asubstandard doctor. Doctors also earn more because their profession has beenorganized for much longer than public education. (my guess is since at leastthe middle ages.) CEO’s earn much more than doctors and teachers. Theconflict is that public education is a socialist endeavor in a capitalistsociety. That is why we keep getting business models placed onto education.This is also why these models don’t work.So when we place the religious metaphor on the socialist endeavor in thecapitalist society of course we are martyrs.The better question might be: What is a better metaphor?And once we have found one, or two, or five, be proud to talk about it,because it is through OUR language that perceptions will be changed. Societywill understand us through the language we use to define ourselves.For me, my metaphor is: I am an artist.

John -

While I agree that most of our co-teachers understand what we aredoing, I can't agree that those outside our profession appreciate us. I have beenreading "Teacher Man" by Frank McCourt, a high school teacher for manyyears, in New York City.He talks about going into a cocktail party and being pushedto the background because he is 'only' a teacher. Much as I love my job, Iwill admit to feeling like 'only' a teacher at parties, class reunions, andother social events. That feeling is based on years of hearing "Oh." whentelling strangers I am a teacher. It is very similar to the 'Oh" I got when I wasstaying home with my children.I also think the economic factor is one of two key issues in our feeling'less than' . As you say, America is a capitalist society. We value money and wevalue people who make lots of it more than anyone else. That being said,the CEO's and doctors you mentioned are predominantly men, even now, whileteaching is sill predominantly female. If those numbers were reversed, I think theeconomics would be reversed as well. The gender issue is key to thisdiscussion, I think.

Susan McGilvrayNBCT, 1998

Susan McGilvray said-

As you say, America is a capitalist society. We value money and wevalue people who make lots of it more than anyone else. That being said,the CEO's and doctors you mentioned are predominantly men, even now, whileteaching is sill predominantly female. If those numbers were reversed, Ithink theeconomics would be reversed as well. The gender issue is key to thisdiscussion, I think.-- Susan, thank your for hitting a point that I missed. And let me justsecond your opinion with an "Ahmen" from the choir. :)But also,How do we change it? From a personal level to a global level I still thinkwe need a new metaphor.I like the open source teaching metaphor I have heard recently on this forumto further advance the practice. One of the hardest parts of the languageapproach is coming up with something that is general and specific. That iswhy I have a problem with the business metaphor in education as well as themedical metaphor.-- I sometimes think of teachers as musicians in their variety and genius.Some are classical musicians(planning a beautiful concerto of learning),some are rock stars (hiting the power chords and changing kids livesforever)) and some are jazz musicians(riffinng on themes ala John Coltrane.)I work with some amazing classical musicians at my school. I personally seemyself as a jazz musician. But when we get together we speak the same language.I think we may be able to find a new direction to take our language that isnot so gender specific, since business and medicine are both male dominatedmaybe we can find or invent something else.
Besides, like Ray Charles said, "There are only two kinds of music... Goodand BAD." Maybe it is the same with teaching.


Are schools too girl friendly

This has always been an interesting and hot topic for me. As a malepreschool teacher of disadvantaged (sp) children I have seen many of mybrightest boys go on to fail in later grades. I have to say this questionalso begs the question are certain grade levels and subjects too girl-friendly or boy-friendly? As far as I know much presvious research hasbeen done into bias against girls in math and science especially in highergrade levels. IN lower grade levels my experience has been that many boysare not ready to sit still until 3rd grade though they are expected to sitstill much younger and for longer times than are considered appropriate byNAEYC. I have seen one teacher of 5th grade be extremeley successfullwith boys and girls. Once a day the class did kick boxing. Once a day theyalso did a line dance.My assistant and I did small groups by sex last week and she enjoyed itbecause she was able to communicate some concepts more quickly in eachgroup but, I will never really know if it is helpful for my studentsbecause they are so young.Here I am all fired up and my thoughts are still a mess. I have morequestions. It is obvious there is bias in public schools but1. Is the bias in the curriculm or the teaching?2. Is the bias in the teachers or the students? (society in general)3. Which parts of this question do we have control over and which partsare out of our hands?THis is the first time I have had more questions than opinions on theforum. I really want to hear some multiple age perspectives on this topicso that I can develop a more global view.


My take on pay for performance in response to the moderator John Norton.

Many preschool teachers around the country are not certified teachers. (Though they should be) Even fewer are NBCT's and even fewer than that are men. (maybe just me?) I have a personal take that I am not sure would be universal to preschool teachers in general.
The other fact that makes pay for performance tricky at the preschool level is that testing, in the traditional sense, is inappropriate for preschoolers. I already administer 4 assessments each year and how students do on them has a great deal to do with everything but what I have taught them. So, with these two facts out of the way...
My position on pay for performance is that the structure of becoming a teacher should be more difficult and hence higher paying.
I feel like the certification process should move from a two tier system to a three tier system. Teachers could spend one year in a paid student teaching situation (possibly at 3/4 of a teachers salary) Then, teachers would move into a classroom for a three to five year probationary teaching license. (a regular teacher's pay that is 20% higher than it is right now.) If after 5 years a teacher has not achieved third tier they would need to go back to student teaching again. Finally, there should be a third tier of certification that is similar to the NBCT process with video taping, essays, documented accomplishments, the whole shebang. (the $100,000 teacher level) Until being an accomplished teacher is the norm and expected then teachers will not be payed what they deserve.

- As a side note -
At a recent Emergenetics seminar I went to at the Virginia Teacher Quality Forum the presenter commented on how it was strange that there were more analytical and conceptual thinkers than usual at the workshop. He said that usually, when he worked with teachers, there were more structural and social thinkers. After looking at who attended the workshop we realized everyone in attendance was either an NBCT, a "Career Switcher" (someone who had come to education from another career) or in higher education. I started to think that it was natural for a teacher that attempted the NBC process to be analytical and or a risk taker (a trait typical of conceptual thinkers.)

Maybe if these were the kinds of thinkers that were drawn to teaching then it would look less like it does now and more like a learning workshop, children's museum, lab school, or artist's retreat. Just a thought.