Differentiation at ALL Levels
If you are starting your own mom and pop business, you can expect to wear many hats and have a variety of responsibilities that would otherwise be the domain of other people, if you were able to hire staff. This could be true even with serious financial backers worth millions.
But fast forward a few years and most likely, if you became successful, you would be in a position to farm out your different responsibilities and even develop departments such as marketing and billing. You would find yourself with more time to specialize in whatever got you started in the first place and perhaps initiate innovations you otherwise wouldn’t have time for. You’d be less pressed to do the myriad of tasks you used to need to do practically simultaneously so that you could take more time to step back, assess the company, and even transform it to meet new needs you are now in the unique position to see.
Not true for teachers in most schools, though I’m learning that there is a very wide spectrum. Each individual teacher is kept in the position of the new businessman. Enterprising, dedicated, passionate, and hardworking even to the point of working twice the hours you are actually paid for. Doing the job of multiple people: decorator, data analyst, data collector, teacher (lesson planning and instruction), parent (are they eating dinner at home? Sleeping enough? Do they own a winter coat?), etc
Many good teachers keep their mouths shut and their heads down, consistently taking on the new burdens As a result, most are not able to become excellent teachers because they have become a jack of all trades, at best. They think they are doing an excellent job when they manage to do everything, or when they have been able to improve in one area. But then the administration determines 3 new areas of focus to become proficient in.
Being a jack-of-all-trades is not the same as being a Renaissance man/woman. Some school leaders don’t realize this. So teachers end up where we are — doing the work of a small business as one person, trying to do everything and excelling at very little.
In my previous professions, there was a division of labor. When I worked for television, as well as for magazines, I wasn’t expected to be able to analyze the stock market; I was expected to know how to rely on the analysts so that I could interview intelligently and write coherent, factual pieces. I had people I could delegate to hunt down documents at the courthouse in Texas.
Companies who don’t know how to manage and divide up their labor force don’t succeed as well as those who can, in my opinion. And, in the eyes of many, schools are failing. We may have different criteria, but the conclusion is the same. Schools are not meeting the needs of the children. Nor are they meeting the professional needs of teachers to be able to rise up and succeed at the new demands in teaching.
Because don’t be mistaken — times have indeed changed. Schools do need to transform how and what we teach because of the changes in society, globalization, technology, you name it. Even the makeup of the student population itself has been transforming. But heaping more on an already over-burdened workforce is not the smartest solution. It’s simply the easiest. Yet another quick-fix that fixes nothing.
Why aren’t schools given money to do a different form of differentiation — hiring data analysts, or more teaching assistants? Having more team-teacher scenarios? Or allowing for even 30 minutes a day where kids are working truly independently so their teacher can reflect on the day or analyze her own data? Rather than expecting her to, once again, add to the list of hints being done at home or on her own time?
Someone recently said to me — it used to be that teachers were not allowed to get married, have children, or even drink alcohol, and the same ideology continues to run schools. Instead of a warped sense of morality dictating these restrictions, it’s the rising demands and underlying belief that the job comes first and all else must be sacrificed for it.
I didn’t get into teaching to be somebody’s indentured servant (even if indentured and tenured sound remarkably similar), or some mediocre,jack-of-all trades laborer who ends up watering down excellent teaching in the name of doing it all. Something has to give. Or I’m gone.