School administrators, do your teachers a favor and get off their backs and let them teach. This is especially true for the non-tenured teachers, and the ones that really have their hearts in the profession. Yes, we all know you administrators have a job to do. But do us all-and indeed the country-a huge favor: worry about more serious things like violence and drug abuse in your schools and less about what kind of classroom management skills your teachers have.
For me, the topic of this article is very personal. Having taught high school mathematics, I went through the process of observations and evaluation reports and had to face the stern critiques that often went along with those two processes. For teachers who really care and love the profession-and those reading this who fit this category, they know all too well-these sometimes scathing evaluations can have brutal consequences on their self-esteem and even ability to carry out their job. Of course, the administrators-you know who you are-the self-proclaimed experts on classroom management, lesson delivery, and questioning techniques ("don't ask a whiplash question, " “pause for 9.3 seconds before giving the answer, " “put variety into your questioning, " etc. ) would claim an entirely different story: that their methods are necessary to insure the highest standards of teaching and to retain the very best professionals for their schools. As John Stossel would say, “Give me a break!"
Think about it: is the humiliation of a first-, second-, or even third-year teacher, through such caustic and demeaning evaluations, really serving any good? When I went back to teaching and left the corporate world, I really believed I was leaving politics behind. How sadly mistaken I was. I found out too early on in my teaching career that the politics and game playing was just as thick, if not thicker, within the realm of pedagogy. Unfortunately, I had to suffer through some of these acrimonious evaluations. Without having tenure, I had no recourse to the injustice and was wide open to the inflicted attacks, much like a wrongly accused without legal representation is open to a zealous prosecutor. Indeed I could rebut these harsh evaluations, especially when they reeked of falsehoods, but this act would merely be an exercise in futility. The powerful teaching unions could do nothing for non-tenured teachers other than console their bleeding hearts and offer some ineffectual words of comfort.
The truth of the matter is that administrators all too often play the political game just as the corporate rats do, back-biting and overstepping others to get to the coveted management or executive positions, which, in their minds, will lead them to “job nirvana. " Teaching, especially at the high school level, is an extremely difficult job. Administrators, having come from at least five years in the classroom, know all too well what it takes to teach five lessons a day five times a week, week in week out for the entire school year. Holding a captive audience of high school students for about a forty-five minute lesson is a feat of no small accomplishment. If a teacher is really trying and willing to learn and improve, then an administrator would do well to provide a constructive and motivating review.
All too often, alas, an administrator has forgotten what it was like to be in the classroom and the concomitant pressures of that day in day out responsibility. Well I say shame on you! Too many good potential teachers are being run out of the game by incompetent administrators. Hey, why don't these same administrators, who can dole out tons of criticism about how poorly a teacher is at managing a class and how ineffective at motivating students, get some payback in the form of caustic reviews on their failings at the most important job duty they have-motivating and inspiring their teachers!
So what is the moral of this article? If you are a teacher reading this then I confidently believe you get it. If an administrator, that you get it but might not admit it. If you are the rare administrator who agrees that the above mentioned crimes are being perpetrated by your peers, then I commend you for being honest, and beseech you not to be the passive minority. In the days of today, the teaching profession is in crisis. We need great teachers and we need teacher retention. Administrators: get off your teachers’ backs and let them teach. Maybe then we can go back to being leaders in the field of education.
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Joe is a prolific writer of self-help and educational material and an award-winning former teacher of both college and high school mathematics. Joe is the creator of the Wiz Kid series of math ebooks, Arithmetic Magic, the little classic on the ABC's of arithmetic, the original collection of poetry, Poems for the Mathematically Insecure, and the short but highly effective fraction troubleshooter Fractions for the Faint of Heart. The diverse genre of his writings (novel, short story, essay, script, and poetry)-particularly in regard to its educational flavor- continues to captivate readers and to earn him recognition.
Joe propagates his teaching philosophy through his articles and books and is dedicated to helping educate children living in impoverished countries. Toward this end, he donates a portion of the proceeds from the sale of every ebook. For more information go to http://www.mathbyjoe.com