Yesterday I walked into a school for an interview I was greeted by the school’s business manager. Business Manager I thought? While the Bloomberg era is over his business model of Education remains.
Let really take a look at this model.
In 2007, Principals received a 23 percent raise over the length of their contract. As part of this contract Principal who agreed to take low performing school and those principals who schools performed extremely well received a $25,000 bonus for doing their job.
The business practice of giving performance based bonus works well in private enterprise where competitiveness is necessary to “turn a profit at minimum cost,” but in the field of Education these performance based bonuses don’t work.
Rising test scores and graduation numbers are due to the work of teachers who spent hours preparing lessons geared towards student success, yet teachers do not share in the performance based pay. The reality is that $25,000 bonus should be given directly to the school for materials it needs to educate our children.
Today, the majority of principals are no longer educators, but pencil pushing mid level management whether they want to be or not. The Bloomberg model swamped them with paperwork. This leaves Principals very little time to interact with their staff or teach class. (Prior to Jimenez’s arrival A.P.s actually taught two periods a day.) If money doesnt make a good leader then the question is simple what makes a good leader?
1. Respect. The old saying stands true if you want respect you have to give respect. Without the respect of his/her staff a principal’s reign is one of constant conflict.
2.Willingness to lead by example. People will follow a leader who is willing to do what he has ask them to do. For example, Demo Lessons. Principals and Assistant Principals are educators first! They should be in the classroom at least one period a day. It is important to a school’s community to see that a principal takes a hands-on approach to student’s success.
3.Praise. What everyone has seems to forgotten in the field of Education is that it is a constant learning process. Regardless, of what people in the media think teachers do work hard for the success of their students. Much like students who always seem response well to positive feedback so do teachers. The goal is simple: We all want the students to succeed.
4. Listening. In cases anyone has forgotten teachers in the New York City Public School system are required to have a master’s degree or above. Simply stated teachers are educated and opinionated. They are in the trenches of Education. Many times policies will be passed down from the power that be. Many of these policies might seem good on paper, but in reality will not work in practice. Principals have to be able to understand that the teacher’s goal is student success and that success often start with questioning policies that don’t work. (We teach our student to be critical thinkers, but teachers are supposed to stifle their opinions of useless policies.)
Education is suppose to be a two way street, but under the Bloomberg business model it has become a one way street with two speeding cars going playing chicken.
When I first met David Jimenez I told him that Manhattan Center was a Ferrari. All he need to do was put air in the tires, gas in the tank and change the oil every now and then. And these teachers will run for you.
At the time Manhattan Center had some of the best teachers in the New York City Department of Education. Many like myself had a personal stake in the school. (I grew up in East Harlem) A number of former students returned to become teachers there. And as many as my former colleagues will attest to it was a fun place to work. Until The Bloomberg Era.
The reality is the Bloomberg business model took the fun out of teaching.
1. Observation. Under the business model the observations process became a way to get teachers. To many teachers the classroom observatio seems like the Spanish inquisition. Truthfully speaking, I would often invite the Principal into my room to observe me. Any teacher who says they don’t want to be observed is not willing to improve as an educator, but the argument returns to the Gotcha observation. Unfortunately this is an all to real factor in education, especially if a principal has targeted you. In reality the observation process should be conducted by a committee of five people. A student, a fellow teacher, a parent, the Principal and an outside observer that is chosen by an SBO. ( if we are going to spent money on useless Professional Development why not use it for something that actually going to help teachers.)
2. Willingness to lead by example. If principals have to do Demo Lessons, teachers should apply the same ideals within their class. Students response better when teachers model behaviors like reading and respect.
3. Be Yourself. The Bloomberg business model wanted robots. Teachers are not robots. Teachers are independent thinkers who have personalities. My trip to though the ATR pool has only supported this idea. In my year in the ATR pool I’ve met teachers who have traveled the world, have a love for opera, play squash daily, and some have moved to New York City just to be a teacher. Administrators have to understand that in a diverse and educated group there are going to be opinions.
4. New Teachers. I know at Manhattan Center new teachers were told to stay away from strong union members like myself and Bob McCue. New teachers should not have to chose a side. A)Last time I checked Principals, Assistant Principals and Teachers all worked for the New York City Department of Education. B) The Fair Labor and Standard Law allows for unionized workplace. A more experienced teacher should take a new teacher under their wing and help them. Principals should not discourage these relationships, but embrace it because it takes a new teacher with no mentors almost three years to develop where as new teachers with mentors develop much quickly. The reality is that a school is a community that works together to educate our next generation.
5.Tenure. This is the 500 Lbs Gorilla in the room. Outsider look at tenure as a lifetime job. The reality is Tenure is simply Due Process. Both Teachers and Administrators have tenure under state law. Under the Bloomberg business model tenure was dangled in front new teachers like an unreachable carrot. Last year nearly 60 percent of new teachers did receive tenure.
It’s simple Education is not a business. We are not mass producing products that can be recalled if they don’t succeed.
For teachers and administrators it is a one shot deal and we need to work together to educate our children. Unfortunately the Business model doesn’t allow this.