Years ago, before starting my admin classes, I attended a workshop for aspiring administrators, I heard a superintendent speak about what it takes to be an effective administrator. One of the things she said was that it takes courage. Courage to make the tough decisions. That advice never left me and I thought of it several times this past month as I was making decisions about which teachers to keep and which teachers to let go.
Prior to becoming an administrator for the first time this year, I watched several administrators at work. Each spring, I would have discussions with them about non-tenured teachers that I had done observations on as part of my job to assist them. I was disappointed when some of them would continue to keep teachers that I thought were ineffective in the classroom and they would then become tenured. I always felt that the administrator wasn't being couragous and doing their ethical duty to the students they served by allowing a teacher to become tenured that had shown poor performance. Now that I am an administrator, I'm not saying it is an easy thing to do to release a teacher, but I am saying it is the ethical thing to do. And the couragous thing to do.
I feel strongly that this is a service profession. We are here to serve the students who come through our doors. I feel just as strongly that we owe it to those students to provide them with the best teachers we can find. I am not opposed to helping a teacher become better by creating an action plan with steps to help them improve. But they need to be willing to change and grow. I think it takes courage to let a teacher go even though you know it will be difficult to find another teacher with the proper licensure. It takes courage when you wonder if you will even find another teacher with a pulse if you work in an area that doesn't attract good teachers for a variety of reasons.
I think it takes courage to start the papertrail that is necessary for tenured teachers who are not performing adequately. I think it takes courage to stick with the papertrail and see it to the end where the teacher is released. This is not easy to do because other people will talk and accuse you of not being fair or questioning your motives and you cannot say anything because of confidentiality. So, you need to have courage.
What you also need to do is remember who you are doing this for. It's for the students who don't get a 'do-over' when they have a bad teacher and move on to the next grade in the fall. I'm sure you have seen or heard the research regarding the loss in student achievement when students have three years in a row of ineffective teachers. Here are a couple of links to some studies on teacher ineffectiveness: (http://www.mccsc.edu/~curriculum/cumulative%20and%20residual%20effects%20of%20teachers.pdf and http://cw.mariancollege.edu/mreardon/755/document%20repository/LDH_1999.pdf
I am sure that there are many of you right now struggling with the decision of whether to release or keep a particular teacher or maybe several teachers. Have the courage to make the right decision. No one said this job was going to be easy. Have the integrity to do the right thing. Students and their parents are counting on you to do the right thing. Other teachers are counting on you to do the right thing. Fellow administrators are counting on you to do the right thing.
I was trying to find some snappy ending to this post and came across some quotes on courage. I wasn't a big John Wayne fan, but I like this one: "Courage is being scared to death....and saddling up anyway."
Do you have the courage?