I tweeted the following yesterday:
If you are in the position to make policies that impact educators, you better get into their classrooms, learn, and understand their world.
— George Couros (@gcouros) January 4, 2014
This was not directed to any specific leadership group, but to all levels of administration. As I talked to someone involved in “decision making” as they shared their plan, I outright said teachers will hate the decision as they will feel handcuffed and suggested that she take some time in the classroom before any policy was created.
What I don’t get is how a decision that impacts teachers in their classrooms could be made by someone sitting from an office that doesn’t at least spend some time observing in a classroom. I am not talking about a “walkthrough” or an evaluation, but actually just sitting in the classroom and getting a feel for how decisions impact students. As an administrator, you want to become “invisible” in that environment so you can see what happens on a regular basis. This only happens when a visit is not a “major” event.
A trustee from another school division said (paraphrased) that teachers wouldn’t necessarily want a board member in their classroom. I know that not all teachers would be jumping on this opportunity, but in reality, not all teachers could have this due to time constraints. That being said, I know many educators are welcoming to anyone that wants to see what they do on a day-to-day basis, especially when they know that it is about an opportunity to improve what happens with students.
For example, I have heard the argument on technology purchases that the current computers with all of their network protocols and security features, only take “two minutes” to logon. The difference is they take “two minutes” for an adult, and usually one that is good with technology. Times that by 25 students, with one teacher in the room, and “two minutes” can become an eternity. The question then would become, how do we keep these computers secure while also ensuring we are creating the most amount of instructional/learning time for our schools. Sitting in another building and making these decisions, you often don’t see the impact, and that is where tension usually begins.
So as we head into 2014, if you are in the position to create policies, take some time just sitting in a classroom and see what a day looks like. You might still have to make some type of policy or procedure that is not necessarily loved by all, but you will both build relationships in this process (strengthening trust), while also truly understanding differing perspectives.
If we are true leaders, we are looking to unleash talent, not control it, and we have to do what we can to take the handcuffs off the people that are working closest with kids.