I’ve been in a very meta-aware state since I went back to teaching after being an administrator. The experience of supporting and supervising teachers and then being a teacher again has caused me to re-examine my language as I try to increase quality with the child care givers I supervise now. One shift that has occurred for me is that as I work through minor and major issues of quality I assume good intentions even more than I used to when I was administering full time. I recently had several conversations where I found the need to question a teacher about their practice. In asking the question, “Tell me about why you made that decision?” I am asking a teacher, who had not followed stated policy, to give me a good reason for why she didn’t follow protocol. I learned something from approaching the problem this way. The teacher thought she was doing the best thing for the student. Her answer alluded to individualizing to meet student needs. I reframed the information she gave into the context of what would be a best practice. After honoring her reasoning I found myself offering an opposing view that also would be considered a best practice for the student but respected the stated policy. In approaching the issue this way I found myself helping this teacher find a common ground where she might be open to hearing the official policy and procedure that she had not followed and possibly gaining a deeper understanding for the reasoning behind the policy.
I believe this new way I’ve found of administrating may be closer to the transformed learning ecology we describe in Teaching 2030. It sits better with me than what I found myself doing when I was out of the classroom. From my perspective as an administrator who was delivering, enforcing, and revising policy, as opposed to creating student learning, my patience for teachers who chose to “do their own thing” became thin. Our child development team has prescribed our policies based on Head Start performance standards, best practices, and common sense, with an eye on increasing the quality of services delivered to our students. Darn it, those procedures should be followed, except… And there it is, why policy breaks down, there is always an exception to the rule. Just like there is always an exception to a generalization about any endeavor involving humans. Don’t get me wrong, I still believe that when in doubt, follow the policy is good advice, especially for novice teachers but, there must be room for individualization, even for teachers.
Our charge, in creating a better future, seems to be to create room for humanity within the policies we craft for states, school systems, and classrooms. More importantly, I think we know how to do this, involve teachers, parents, and students in the process of developing these policies and ask questions like, will this help teachers meet students’ needs.