I arrived at school early, set up a PowerPoint, printed some terrible poems, and dressed up as a Wizard. Tuesday!
I am part of the Academic Success committee, meaning we work to celebrate and promote positive outcomes in the classroom. In less jargon: We separate the grades into “houses”, Hogwarts Style, and began a massive academic competition. There was a sorting hat, movie clips, and a t-shirt slingshot.
Flanking the Academic Success Committee is the Beautification Committee, who is involved with bulletin boards and writing grants for more paint. They’ve already established a relationship with local groups for volunteers. And, on the other side, is our Sunshine committee, in charge of livening up the year for staff. Sounds silly, until you consider that most teachers leave because, in effect, there’s not enough sunshine in their building1.
There are much better posts about Urban teachers giving it all, on how working in an environment of austerity means smiling as your spine is cracking. This is 100% staff engagement, working on the little things that make great schools great. That’s in addition to teaching almost 130 children.
These committees would not have happened 3 years ago. What changed?
In September, the Leadership Team had a conversation with my Principal. We mutually agreed on the committees, and we mutually agreed to take hard-earned collaboration time and dedicate it to the committee. And then…nothing. Not “nothing” in the sense of “no action”, but nothing as of regulation, rules, responsibilities, red-tape or the run-around. You guys are professionals, we were told. Do what you need to do.
Contrast that with this, secretly recorded2 video from “professional development” in Chicago Public Schools:
Chilling, right? I wrote this by word of a Philadelphia public school where the Principal assigned teachers desks, compelled them to wear name-tags, and regulated a strict system of asking to go to the bathroom. Don’t ask about the cell-phone policy. I went to a week-long “induction” where teachers were dismissed for lunch one at a time, by last name – run by the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers. Yeesh.
Could you imagine Academic Engagement and Beautification committees forming in this school? Or teachers persuing new curriculum? How about someone volunteer for the National Honors Society? Anyone?
We had time, we had goals, we had expectations and support. It’s not shocking that good things are happening, it’s shocking that some people can’t understand how to get there.
Bosses need to be boss. Sometimes that means hard conversations. Sometimes it means staying out of the way. But there are very clearly delineated schools of employee management, and it’s important to call them out.