Reforming Management in Education — #EdChat Summary: 12-06-11

Topic: What changes could be made to the present management structure of education to make it more effective for educators?

This was another #edchat that I was prepared to basically sit by the sidelines for – not because I had lost interest but because I feared that I would have nothing to contribute (not being an educator). Luckily, there’s always so much going on with #edchat that it’s almost impossible to sit by the sidelines unless you are firmly committed to keeping your mouth shut even when you might have something useful to say or a good question to ask.

I think a certain amount of conflict between employees and management is unavoidable.  Management is tasked with making do with limited resources (and in the education world, those resources seem to keep getting more and more limited all the time) while teachers are tasked with educating our children the best way they can. The same dichotomy exists in any business. The employees are expected to perform while the management is expected to keep costs as low as possible. It’s a balancing act.

Unfortunately, this balancing act becomes slightly more important when we’re talking about a child’s education instead of a firm’s profit margins. And when you consider that public education budgets will likely take a hit as federal spending inevitably slows down in the US, striking the right balance between teacher needs and managerial decisions will only get more difficult.

Enter Tuesday’s #edchat discussion. In essence, it was asking how we can work to improve the relationship between teachers and administrators so that a school’s scare resources can be allocated most efficiently and so students won’t suffer from the inevitable budget cuts. At least, that’s my take on things.

Main themes from the discussion:

  • This is a highly subjective discussion. No doubt, this one was going to depend mightily on what school and what district we’re talking about. Every school is different. Some teachers seemed like the came to this #edchat with a list of complaints and demands ready and waiting. Others seemed to be relatively pleased with the balance that had been struck between them and their administrators. Considering how many administrators participate in #edchat, I was surprised at how civil the discussion went.
  • Administrators need to do a better job including teachers in their decisions. I think this one is a common complaint. How often have you complained that your boss “just doesn’t understand” or that he “doesn’t remember what it’s like” to do your job? This is a universal concern, even though (in most cases) administrators and management have to move up the ranks (meaning they have done your job). Still, it is a valid point. Sometimes administrators make decisions that are unrealistic. Optimally, these get changed down the line once they see that they won’t work, but all that trial and error could often be avoided if they listened to teachers from the get-go.
  • Administrators need to be reminded what it’s like to be a teacher. There were some administrators in the discussion that said that they filled in for absent teachers regularly. That’s awesome, but it’s all too rare, apparently. Many, many teachers echoed the same sentiment: that administrators needed to experience teaching for themselves as often as possible so they could be more sensitive to their needs. And if actually stepping to the front of the classroom isn’t an option, they should at least observe (not evaluate) from the back frequently.
  • Teachers need to be made aware of what administrators are dealing with. The flip side to the issue of administrators forgetting what it’s like on the front lines is that many teachers simply have no idea what kind of pressures an administrator is under. These come from all angles, ranging from tight budgets to calls for higher scores on standardized tests to expanded support for sports and extracurriculars. Everyone wants theirs, and it’s the administration’s job to figure out how to deliver it all. That’s tough work, and teachers need to appreciate that.
  • Communication and involvement is key. Bottom line. You can’t expect to have a good relationship between teachers and administration if both sides think the other is screwing them over or not appreciating their work. Teachers and administrators need to work together. It’s not rocket science; it’s not a new idea. But it also isn’t easy. Unfortunately, it has to be done. There are children’s futures at stake here. I even heard a few educators calling for more parental involvement in school management, which is a nice idea but would need some fleshing out.
  • The problem might be the people instead of the management structure. Perhaps the reason that this issue is so subjective is because it’s not that the management structure is the problem. Maybe it’s the people that are the problem. This begs the question: what can be done to attract better people to school administration? Also, how can we improve those administrators that we already seem to be stuck with? Job security is pretty big in education. (Should it be?)
  • The worst administrators (and teachers) are those who stopped learning. This, again, I think is a rather general rule of thumb. All of the most interesting and effective people I have ever known are people that never stopped learning. When you stop learning, you stop improving, and then you inevitably get left behind. So, logically, the best way to improve administrators (and teachers) is to encourage them to keep learning. This also meshes well with the idea that communication is key, because when you communicate you learn.
  • We might be focusing on the wrong thing entirely here. What if the problem is not with management at all but with the overall educational system that we have in place? If that’s the case, then focusing our energies on reforming management might all be a waste of time. This is definitely something worth pondering.

My favorite tweets from the discussion:

saraallen91 @cybraryman1 I think that entirely depends on the administration at each school. Our admin really listens & supports us as teachers.

cybraryman1 The key point is including teachers (students and parents) in the process.

mrdglhs Administration should be required to be in classrooms observing (not evaluating) 1/2 day per week. Helps them see needs first hand.

apospirit Have all people relaying the same info –> not be in conflict with one another. I’ve heard some teachers/admins learning conflicting things in different training programs.

tomwhitby Getting buy-in from teachers for policy changes would be a nice touch to leadership.

DrThomasHo We have the means to take our story directly to the community & do NOT need admins to do it for us. They do it so badly anyway! :-(

weisburghm Community, parents, administrators, and communities must work together to improve education. Nothing works in a vacuum.

MertonTech What roadblocks are teachers hitting that would spark a change in management structure?

mrlove314 @fliegs If teachers don’t want real feedback then they must not be doing something right.

davidwees What I would like to change about education structure is not the management structure, but the learning structure.

jdavis43 @davidwees @mikevigilant It amazes me how many teachers quit learning.

davidwees @TestSoup The administrators I’ve worked under with whom I’ve been most impressed have all been learners.

tomwhitby The revolving door for administrators often allow things to fall through the cracks without follow-up or consistency.

tomwhitby I have always thought it would be interesting to have all admins take substitute teacher positions for a few days each year.

mikevigilant Another good thought: RT @delta_dc:@geraldaungst Perhaps the consensus position is that trust is required from all parties.

rliberni RT @tomwhitby@geraldaungst If Admins respect and support their teachers, teachers may offer more leadership than admins pay them for.

whittclass RT @tomwhitby: Education administrators need more staff consultation and leadership and less control and reactive policy directives.

To follow the complete discussion, look for the full archive here.  They’re usually posted up by the end of the week.

Looking to discuss #edtech in depth? Check out the LinkedIn group: Edutech Trends, Visions, Passions.

###

New to #EdChat?

If you have never participated in an #Edchat discussion, these take place twice a day every Tuesday on Twitter.  Over 400 educators participate in this discussion by just adding #edchat to their tweets. For tips on participating in the discussion, please check out these posts:

More Edchat

Challenge:

If you’re new to hashtag discussions, then just show up on Twitter on any Tuesday and add just a few tweets on the topic with the hashtag #edchat.

What do you think? Leave a comment! We would love to hear from you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>