Tuesday, September 2, 2008

One Bold Bird

From the book Drenched in Light by Lisa Wingate, “He focused on the geese again. ‘Of course, what they’re really looking for is a leader. All those birds, and they’ll just keep circling forever until one breaks the cycle and heads north again…I’ll have to put that in the Sunday sermon. I’ll call it, One Bold Bird.’”

This was a wonderful book about a guidance counselor who is recovering from an eating disorder who helps a young student find her way in a new elite school. By taking an unpopular stand because she is not willing to compromise her principals, the guidance counselor tries to make a difference at her school. I look at the many characters in this book and wonder which one I am most like. I hope that in the same circumstance, I too have the courage to do the right thing instead of the thing that will cause the least amount of controversy.

Sometimes I have taught in some schools where I thought a little differently than the rest of the faculty. I was a little wary of voicing my opinion because I always felt like I was in the minority. I saw things from a different perspective than others and because I did, I wondered if my perspective was the wrong one. Now that I look back I can see that just because mine was different, didn’t make it wrong.

I really think we should use more technology in the classroom. I think we have a lot of resources available but I don’t feel that schools and teachers use them in the most effective and efficient ways. As a department head, I saw the opportunity to use some fantastic tech tools to help the special education students. For example, the district gave us free training for Wynn and Test Talker software, bought the software and scanners necessary to implement this in the classroom. Out of twelve teachers, I was the only one to use it consistently every week, two others used it occasionally, and the others always told me that they were too busy to ever use it. No one can force others to use things that are out there but I felt like it was such a waste of money that might have been better used if each teacher could have requested the purchase of something they may have felt more comfortable using. If they didn’t need anything, pass the money on to someone who could use it. Instead the software sat on a computer unused and the scanners never was touched. Of course when you have a large faculty, with many egos, different philosophies of teaching, and different teaching styles, it is hard to bring everyone together but eventually someone is going to have to be the “One Bold Bird” to convince the school district to stop wasting money on things that will never be used. We are wasting taxpayers’ money when this happens.

As with discipline, school systems are too worried about litigation that I feel students get away with too much. I have been in meetings where the parents refuse to let the student take responsibility for his/her actions and insist that it is the school’s responsibility. But what about the parents who do not feel that way and want their children to face responsibility, only to find out that the school has let the bad behavior slide by. For instance, my daughter wore a skirt that was too short according to the dress code and we were trying to support the school’s policies. After a lot of arguing, my husband convinced me to let it go and let her face natural consequences. We told her that if they called us about this, she would be punished that night and the weekend. She goes to school and of course, nothing happens to her. She says it was addressed but they told her not to wear the skirt again. What are the odds that she won’t wear this skirt again, only to achieve the same results? She said the dress code was not enforced because too many parents complain. If this is so, why bother having a dress code if you aren’t going to enforce it? We decided to make that decision for her and the skirt was taken away so there wouldn’t be a next time. I can’t tell you the times that I have called for an administrator about a dress code violation only to be told that 1) they have more important things to do and/or 2) those parents won’t support us and it isn’t worth the hassle. It is time for schools to get back into control and until they do, many students will fall by the wayside. I hope in the future I will start to hear schools say they have had enough and be willing to be the “One Bold Bird” so that other schools will follow.

I have also had a different opinion than most of my colleagues at school about grading scales, ignoring certain attention getting behaviors, and consistent communication with parents. Of course these opinions are more individual beliefs so I don’t have to openly be the “One Bold Bird” but if I had too, I hope that I have the courage to stand up for what I believe in.


Anonymous said...

ok-so what is your belief about grading scales, etc. that's different from your colleagues'. I gather from the rest of your post that the vertical poster "what is right is not always popular.....what is popular is not always right" could be very comfortably displayed in your classroom.
I'm interested in what your take on those other items is...if you don't mind saying. Special needs teachers think differently because their clients think differently.

loonyhiker said...

When my students did the best that they could, I would not give them a failing grade even if they got all the answers wrong. I then would reteach the lesson until they understood the skill. When students made mistakes, they had to correct them instead of moving on. I see too many teachers just give a grade and that is it but I don't feel the students learned from their mistakes this way. I also would ignore annoying behaviors and instead call home often to brag about good behaviors. Other teachers resented this because I "made them look bad."