Bernard Pierorazio

Leader, Educator, Activist

Tag: education reform

Summer Reading for Teachers: Four Educational Leadership Books

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Anyone who says teachers have the summers off has probably never met a teacher. With the two and a half months of summer break, many educators usually spend this time cultivating their profession through graduate schoolwork, lesson plan and curriculum design preps, professional development seminars, and, of course professional development and educational leadership reading.

For the summer time, these months provide educators with the much-needed free time to recharge their batteries and practice, inform, and enlighten their spirit for the education sector. To help with this, I have highlighted four incredible educational leadership books that you should read over the summer. These books will provide you with the necessary education pedagogies and educational leadership tactics that you can utilize and implement into your classroom for next year. Remember, education is a constant and ever-evolving entity. In order to provide your scholars with the best set of education, you as a professional need to invest and learn in acquiring the best practices and approaches that can shape your classes for the better.

Transformational Leadership by Gary Vurnum

In Gary Vurnum’s book, Transformational Leadership, Gary uncovers ninety-two tips in developing your leadership strengths in an easily digestible format. This comprehensive read talks about different leadership traits that a person can possess and develop each and everyday and how to apply them throughout a multitude of scenarios. By learning and recognizing these different traits, you will be able to apply specific tactics, especially with your students, in a more transformative and effective way. This, in turn, will allow you to increase motivation and morale while also enhancing your own personal awareness to any mistakes and flaws preventing you from success.

Educational Leadership: A Bridge to Improved Practice by William G. Cunningham and Paula A. Corderio

Educational Leadership describes how successful and effective schools and administrators operate in an increasingly challenging and fast-pace academic environment. In this text, Cunningham and Corderio discuss various leadership theories and best practices that are implemented in the present conditions and operations within American schools. For education, teachers are constantly demanded to know and perfect the concept of leadership and management on a daily basis. But for many novice, and even veteran teachers, this skill can be hard to develop, especially without the knowledge or practice to do so. For Cunningham and Corderio, they provide an overall crash course on leadership theory, school management, community relations, and instructional and curriculum leadership.  

Cultivating Leadership in Schools: Connecting People, Purpose, & Practice by Gordon A. Donaldson, Jr.

Gordon Donaldson provides his readers with excellent tips and practical models for teachers, principals, and school teams to utilize within their schools. He establishes the idea of culture and shared-leadership amongst teachers and school administrators and gives various insights into how school-leaders can better internalize and execute at their jobs more effectively with strong and purposeful management. But what makes this book a truly impactful read are the tangible model-based tactics that can be implemented within the realities of a school and its overall school culture. This book is, of course, realistic about the ups-and-downs and frustrations with the job, but still provides helpful tips in how to overcome these obstacles in the most effective and efficient way possible.

Teaching As Leadership: The Highly Effective Teacher’s Guide to Closing the Achievement Gap by Steven Farr

Steven Farr and Teach For America share what the organization has learned about effective teachers over the last twenty years in their work to close the academic achievement gap in under-privileged and under-resourced areas in the United States. The book includes a framework that explains the traits of some of the most effective and successful Teach For America corps members and breaks down leadership into six different principles:

  1. Set Ambitious Goals for Student Achievement
  2. Invest Students and Families in Working Hard to Achieve the Goals
  3. Purposeful planning to Achieve the Vision of Student Success
  4. Execute Plans with Judgment and Adjustments
  5. Continuously Increase Effectiveness to Accelerate Student Learning
  6. Work Relentlessly to Navigate Challenges

Much of these principles highlight the daunting battle many Teach For America Corps members undergo every day. With these principles, young educators are able to implement the best approaches in giving their students an excellent set of tools to complement their education.

Why do Teachers Quit?

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Teachers enter the education sector for a multitude of reasons: the experience to make a difference, the continuity to be a lifelong learner, the advocacy in improving a broken system, or the belief and guidance of a chosen mentor. As inspiring as it is to see these incredible individuals assume the responsibilities of shaping and developing our future leaders of tomorrow, many educators have been noted to leave the field at an incredibly alarming rate. With the statistics going as high as 40 to 50 percent of teachers leaving the field with the first five years of the profession, we have to ourselves a challenging question: Why do teachers quit?

To begin, educators are faced with a plethora of problems, some of which are the following: unrealistic expectations set upon them by the Common Core State Standards, oversized classrooms, classroom management, lack of resources, low wages, etc. But regardless of it all, they continued to persevere until they cross that finish line of the end of the year. While it is great to see them stepping into the frontlines of education in order to bridge the education inequities that exist within the nation today, the countless burden and lack of support educators face are negatively impacting their want and desire to stay within the field. In fact, many educators, especially those retiring, have utilized social media to highlight and deliberate the disruptive and toxic events occurring within the education sector.

But what are these hurdles that are preventing teachers from staying within the field? How have we allowed it to come to this extreme where the turnover rate is simply at an all time high?

To start, salary has become one of the biggest definers within our society today. It dictates the work you contribute to your job and the overall value you contribute to society directly. According to the National Education Association, the national average starting salary for teachers in 2012 to 2013 was $35,141. While this figure may seem fine to some people, for many educators this figure is just simply too low for the workload they do each and everyday. If you look at what is expected from a teacher both in and out of the classroom, you would realize that the lesson planning, grading, meetings, and extracurricular activities force them to go beyond the 9-to-4 hours of the day. That in turn also provides an emotional and mental toll that forces many teachers to ‘burn out’ during the middle and end of the year. When you take all of the hours they invest for their students into consideration, that salary is not sustainable.

Outside of the salary, one of the other bigger issues teachers face is the ever-evolving dynamics within the classroom. As much as we can picture an ideal class setting with eighteen well-behaved students and a personally written lesson plan ready to execute, this is, in many cases, not reality. In fact, depending on the district, curriculum, and subject you are assigned to teach, you may be faced with a wide variety of obstacles that are only meant for you to fail. To explore this further, we have to go beyond the generic complaints of classroom management and disruptive students, and look further into the lack of autonomy and freedom teachers have with their lesson plans. At the end of the day, teachers do not call the shots. In fact, they have very much little to say when it come to their lesson plans. This type of overbearing culture is not only disempowering, but also frankly quite toxic.

Now, one of the last reasons teachers leave the education sector is because of respect, or lack thereof. Unlike the field of finance or medicine, education is not romanticized. Instead, it is seen as a simpler path that is simply one step ahead of babysitting. As much as the general public can criticize the profession, teachers and educational experts are the true backbone of the country. For educators, they are the planners, the consultants, the strategist, the parent, the mentor, the coach, the bad guy, the motivator, and the expert in giving our children an excellent set of education. If it was not for their strong efforts, many of these doctors, lawyers, and business owners will not be where they are today. But even with this investment, teachers are still not appreciated for all of their hard work.

If we want to keep our talents within the classroom, we as a nation need to make the necessary changes within the profession. If we do not, teachers and educational professionals will continue to leave. Remember, a world without teachers is a world without a future.

TedTalks Education: Rita Pierson, Every Kid Needs a Champion

In this particular TedTalk, we are joined with Rita Pierson, an educator who has been in the classroom for over forty years. The passion, drive, and desire she personifies for the field is an absolutely inspiring. With her comical anecdotes and playful demeanor, Rita does highlight some important influencers that impact the classroom on a daily basis. One of her biggest topics in this eight minute video is her push for teacher-student relationship. She discusses how she once heard a colleague say that, “They don’t pay me to like the kids.” Her response: “Kids don’t learn from people they don’t like.'” In the classroom, an educator cannot be successful at their job if they are not willing to invest in their students. This investment, while difficult at times, is the true game changer in transforming and molding a child’s future.

 

Day in the Life: Arkansas Teacher of the Year

Culturally Responsive Teaching by Demetrius Lancaster

The Real Problem Regarding Teacher Accountability

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For the past two decades, the standard and accountability for teacher led instructions, also known as teacher accountability, have dominated the political discourse in the United States. This movement, sparked immediately from President Bush’s No Child Left Behind act, adheres to three common principles: The first holds to the improvement and national standard for academic structure or what is required for student learning. The second is the focus on analytical and statistical tracking of student growth and data, often measured by statewide examinations. And finally the third, which looks deeply the educator’s tactics and teacher, led instructions for both student engagement and student success.

On the face of it, these three principles seem relatively logical and well intentioned for the betterment of education equity. However, like any perfect plan, there are always changes and flaws during the process. The idea of keeping teachers and students alike for unrealistic expectations has driven our education system down a incredibly misguided and unintended path. This problem has even escalated in which teacher retention rates have continued to decrease year after year where reportedly more than 50% of new educators are said to leave the classroom before their five-year mark. With this type of fluctuation and lack of consistency, we have to ask our selves if what we are doing for our educators and our children is the right thing for their futures.

When it comes down to it, the problems merely are not the standards themselves. Rather it is the teacher accountability associated with the standards. Yes, there is a specific spectrum in which teachers should be evaluated. But can we truly put the initial blame on educators who go above and beyond for our students? Are they the reasons why our education system is failing? The answer here is simple. It is NO. They are not the reason. Yes they have an impact, but the overall concept of putting them at fault for an almost impossible task is something we need to grasp as a nation.

At times, educators, and even students, have viewed the word accountability to be synonymous for the phrase “do work.” This type of negative connotation, over worked, and under appreciated phrase that “accountability” has is what is leading to the exit of both new and veteran teachers. This problem escalades quickly with disrupted systems, lack of cohesion, and long-term negative effects on both the schools and their students.

So what is teacher accountability? Why does this play a large role in their work?

Teacher accountability, by definition, is when educators are committed to provide quality programs and welcome accountable lessons that are strategic, effective, and achievable in producing meaningful results. With the new national Common Core State Standards, teacher accountability has changed. While there is some merit to the new standards such as stronger executed lessons, the overall concept and judgmental critiquing overlooks the natural and organic student engagement with these common core academic models. Many educators argue that the standards and new curriculum is merely to teach for the test than to teach for the student.

While I unequivocally agree that teachers must take partial responsibility for their student’s achievement, we also need to be aware that there are other external factors at play. Teachers oftentimes do not have any control on the lack of resources or unrealistic timing and expectation that is asked from them day-in and day-out. This burden from the local media and the national political agendas have distorted this problem to be solely about the teacher, when in reality factors such as poverty, community, the entire education system, and much more all play a part is our student’s success. When these factors do play a role, everyone seems to take a blind eye by the surrounding elements and look for a quick and easy escape goat.

To alleviate this problem, we need to move away from the blame game and look at the impacting problems educators go through each and every day with their students. While we cannot deny that we will be faced with some individuals who have taken a backseat to the field as a whole, we also need to recognize that a vast majority of teachers are in the classrooms from 6 am to 5 pm preparing, teaching, and aiding our future leaders. What we as a nation and as a whole need to do is that we have to be realistic about the problems. These problems cannot be solved simply with a new agenda or a new representative. Rather, it needs dedicated and invested individuals who are willing to put the time and effort in making this a tangible goal.

 

 

 

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