The Educator's PLN

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Almost daily someone comes out with a plan to do something different in education to make some progress in reforming the system. Most of these changes require that teachers or students make the change. The truth is that until we change the culture, there will be little change in the system.

In thinking about how we approach, analyze and evaluate things, it seemed to me that the people held most accountable were the students and the teachers. They were the most visible and easily assessed, because they, as groups, are asked to perform under scrutiny while their efforts are observed, recorded, analyzed and critiqued.

I have been saying for years that if we are to better educate our kids, we need to first better educate their educators. In order to do that, districts need to offer some type of support for that to happen. With all that is being required of teachers today, there is not enough time for them to plan out and develop the best methods of professional practice in addition to adding their needed relevance in professional development. Things are changing way too fast. If that development is an expectation of a district or school, the responsibility for it to happen should fall on that district or school.

Why not apply the same standard of observation of students’ work, and teachers’ lessons to every school’s Plan for Support. Let’s call for more transparency from our administrators. If a teacher’s support for a student’s success is as important as research tells us it is, wouldn’t the same hold true for an administrators support of a teacher, or even the entire staff?

Many, many schools will talk about their support for students and staff to be placed on websites and brochures. Those are words written in general terms, which in many cases are just painting a picture of wonderful teachers, happy at work for the benefit of wonderful happy students. It is public relations. The reality in many cases is support for teachers is whatever the state requires for professional development, as well as a place to pick up forms to be filled out for credit.

Why not really commit to something; a real plan. Write it out just as a teacher is required to write out lesson plans. Put the plan into words on a document stating specifically what is being done in your school to support any teachers’ development. Do it step by step to include everything. What are the goals and what is the plan? Call it the Professional Support Plan. Make it public for all to see. After that, observe it. Analyze its effects. Reflect on results. Modify the plan where it is needed for better results. This should be a main objective of some administrator. Hold someone accountable for the success of support for the staff. Break down the “Us vs. Them” mentality and establish that we are educators all, and we are in this together.

Many reading this will say, “we do that already”. If that is the case then roll out that existing Support Plan Document and run it by your staff. See if they think it is an effective plan. Get a little collaboration on a document that could have a profound effect on the school’s staff. It might be possible that something was left out of the current plan, or maybe it lacks relevance because it was developed in the 90’s. Years in the 21st Century may see changes that might have taken Decades in the 20th Century.

Support, Transparency, Collaboration, Communication, and Creation are the things we need our educators working on today, since they are the very things we need to teach our kids for tomorrow. We have demands of our students and teachers that force them out of their comfort zones. It may be time to ask more of our administrators. They need not do more, but maybe they need to do better. We need to break some comfortable patterns of the past for more effective plans for the future. In order to change the system we need to first change the culture. Twentieth Century methodology is far less effective in meeting the needs of 21stCentury students and teachers. We need to upgrade.

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