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Tracy Rosen

It always amazes me to read and hear sentences like these ones,

I can hire someone who knows math or English or science, but it's a little harder to find a teacher who is willing to work with kids. To listen to them. To really hear what they're saying and take it to heart in a way that's more meaningful than, "What rules do you think we should have in this class?"

Mainly because they are true. We know that relationship is what helps us learn and helps us to stay accountable for our learning (don't we?). How did we get to the point that teachers refuse to have a relationship with their students? How?


Then there's the flip side to it all. A teacher understands the pressures that students' face and learns to choose the battles carefully. The teacher offers food to students while they work (students with late lunches/no food at home/or a lack of common sense that says to eat before you run out the door) ... the e-mail that follows reminds the staff that food and drinks are not allowed in the classroom. A student wears a headband in class and the teacher doesn't address it because the teacher is convinced that the headband has some miracle dust sprinkled on. When the headgear is on the reluctant learner sits up straighter, takes notes, asks questions and hands in his homework for the first time ever. The e-mail that follows reminds the staff that headbands are not allowed. A student is late because getting out the door in the morning takes some strategy. The teacher knows the problems and allows the student a couple minutes before taking attendance. The e-mail that follows is directed only to that teacher and says "blank’s brother has been written up for being late. School policy states that late students must be written up after X amount of times." A student is listening to headphones in a classroom. The guy from the tech department complains and the rule breaking teacher is vilified in the faculty room. There is no time to explain that this very student has had a terrible week at home and in school. That an agreement was made, if he got caught up he could use his i-pod.

The point is that teachers are not always given the leeway to have a relationship. And we all know that without a relationship teaching and learning are difficult if not impossible.

Scott Elias

Your post makes me twitch, Amy. Not at you, but because I know exactly where you're coming from. The thing is, I WAS that teacher! The guy who looked the other way when the kids snacked in class as long as they cleaned up after themselves. The one who would let my math kids listen to their headphones while they worked. The one who, rather than freak out and start snatching up cell phones when they rang, would gently remind the offender to put it away and keep it on vibrate.

And you know what? Despite all of this, I never "lost control" of the class. Though I constantly heard from colleagues and administrators that I was "setting a bad precedent" for my students and that they would take advantage of me.

We hear this all the time at our school leadership meetings. Half the faculty want the latitude to do what they feel is right and make professional decisions themselves. The other half wants everything clearly spelled out and universal rules and consequences that apply to EVERYONE in EVERY situation.

We have teachers who want to shut down the school store because (in their eyes) it makes their kids late for class. We have other teachers who will allow one kid to collect money and make a "school store run" for the class halfway through the period to grab some bagels.

Shutting down the school store to prevent kids from being late is a little like trying to reduce traffic accidents by not allowing cars on the Interstate.

So I guess what I'm saying is that you've hit the nail right on the head. And a huge part of this whole "leadership" thing is delicately picking your battles on these issues.

Scott Elias

One more thing, Amy -- it doesn't stop when you're an administrator! At a department chair meeting last year one of the teachers said, "A member of my department -- I'm not saying who -- saw one of the administrators -- I'm not saying which one -- walk RIGHT BY a kid who was talking on his cell phone in the hallway and he DIDN'T DO ANYTHING!"

The outrage! A student on a cell phone and no one freaked out? What is this world coming to?

Forget that whoever it was may have been on the way to deal with an actual IMPORTANT issue. Or late to a meeting. The critical issue was that we missed a chance to look like controlling buffoons to a student who was committing the horrible act of text messaging somone.

Blair Peterson

I will never forget the first time that I stepped in take over teaching a class as an administrator. It forced me to come up with creative ideas for teaching and managing behavior. This particular discussion reminds me of Nordstrom's Rule #1 "Use good judgment in all situations. There will be no additional rules." Wouldn't it be nice if we could only rely on this one rule.
Thanks for the post Scott. It reminded me that it's time to get back into the classroom for some teaching.

Stan Masters

I believe that all administrators should instruct and be responsible for learning of at least one group of students...a course, teach a new skill to students, run an afterschool tutoring session, something! I agree with Scott that this keeps the educator connected to what school is all about. It also helps us "major in the majors" of the lives of young people. Scott hit it on the head...there is nothing magical about the administrator's office. It's time to pull back the drapes of those wizards operating in their own world of Oz.

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