Thursday, November 17, 2011

How to Not Run a School

Thomas Edison once said, "I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work."
I'm going to be honest: it's only midway through November and I think my school is on the verge of falling apart. Maybe that's an exaggeration, but it seems as if we're trying to go out of our way to make things more complicated, pointless, and ultimately, not fun. School should be a fun place for teachers and students. As it is being run right now, it is not.

Over the past week, I've spent a considerable amount of time during my off-periods wondering what the hell happened. Three years ago, this place started with such a great culture and attitude. That feels like a long time ago. There's a long list of things that have been eating away at me and everyday, something new gets added on. Decisions are being made without foresight. Things that I thought would obviously be implemented have not been implemented. I thought we would have figured out at least something by now, but we haven't.

I hated investment banking for a lot of reasons, but dammit, those guys knew how to run their shit. And they were damn good at it. The BSDs knew exactly when to provide an incentive. They paid their monkeys just enough to the point where money wouldn't be an issue, and that's where they squeezed the most productivity out of us. They knew how to maintain talent. They gave us a chance to act like family once in a while: go out, dine on expensive dinners, abuse your perks, but most importantly: work together. And because of that, we monkeys wanted to climb to the top. That's not exactly how it works in education.

Leaders in education are either extremely ineffective teachers, or super effective teachers who eventually get so burned out they quit in a very short amount of time. I think what this industry really needs is a straight-forward list instructing potential and current administrators on what not to do when running a school. I will get the ball rolling:
  • Do not tell teachers to come up with "artifacts" of student work, but then ration out how much paper you are willing to provide. See next bullet for a follow-up on this.
  • Do not expect teachers to differentiate in classrooms if each teacher is given only one ream of paper per week for printing purposes. Different teachers use different amounts of paper as different students require different teaching strategies.
  • Do not ration paper to the staff while simultaneously buying expensive, brand-new furniture for all administrators. This includes brand-new and completely unnecessary conference tables, shelving units, and leather office chairs. It's a school, not a fucking corporation.
  • Do not buy new refrigerators and microwaves and expect the staff to not use them. As a follow-up, do not then move these appliances into your own office so as to passive aggressively tell the staff these appliances are off-limits. That's just low, man.
  • Do not run professional development sessions through the use of chart paper and sharpies and expect your staff to implement 21st century technology in classrooms.
  • Do not tell first-year teachers to avoid "fraternizing" with senior teachers. Collaboration does not come from dividing members of staff.
  • Do not "randomly" decide to "rearrange" classroom assignments in the summer by putting all new teachers on one end of the school, and all senior teachers on the other. See bullet point above.
  • Do not rate your teachers "unsatisfactory" simply to show them who is in charge.
  • Do not tell your teachers, "This may not be the place for you," due to a personality clash.
  • Do not provide a vague grading policy and then weeks later say, "Student X has a very high/low grade in your class. Can I see all of student X's work and your syllabus for the semester? Justify his/her grade for me."
  • Do not claim your school is a "21st-century technology school" without actually having a space for students to use computers, print papers, or access a physical/digital library. As a follow-up, do not spend ridiculous amounts of money on laptop carts for each classroom and expect teachers to sit around after school supervising students who would like to use the laptops after school because they do not have access to computers at home. 
  • Do not put brand-new, untenured teachers in charge of curriculum development for the entire school.
  • Do not reward mediocrity by putting up posters with student names on them with the title, "Only Failed One Class." If you do decide to put these up, please take them down before Parent-Teacher Conferences, or you will have parents asking, "Wait, what? You put up a kid's name even if they fail a class? What kind of school is this?"
Okay, so this was kind of a rant and I may or may not have been listening to Dashboard Confessional while eating Cookies n' Cream ice cream writing this. You don't know what it's like, dammit! Maybe my kids do.


Mr. T said...

keep shouting brother, someone is bound to hear it one day. or not. but i'm glad you are letting people know either way.

Yo Mista said...

@ Mr. T:
Thanks dude, I shall continue emo-blogging til my emo-ness runs dry!

Anonymous said...

you are so right!!!

Mr. and Miss When you are really a teacher, you don't have a last name. said...

Do not settle and continue working for that dumbass. There are so many other schools ready for your brilliance and hard work that are really fighting the cause.

Anonymous said...

That's the truth.

Karen Perry said...

Sounds like every school I have worked for in Chicago Public Schools...

Here is another one - Don't provide copy-and-paste reviews for all of your teachers and then rank them differently...seemingly without logic.

Yo Mista said...

@ Karen:
Hahaha yes! Those are the worst!