Tuesday, October 1, 2013

A Message to Teachers

This is an interesting, challenging, rewarding and frustrating time to be an educator. Times of transition always are and, like it or not, education and our society in general are changing. Technology is transforming the way we interact with each other and the world around us. Smartphones, tablets, laptops, glasses that superimpose the digital over the physical world, watches that notify us of incoming calls, emails or texts; how can educators keep up with the advances constantly being made that impact our lives? Furthermore, the previous list is merely one of hardware devices. What about the internet, blogs, wikis, social media, twitter, apps, Android vs. Windows vs. Apple.  As if that’s not enough, throw in a new teacher evaluation system, RETELL, the Common Core Standards, a constant stream of media stories about how education is failing today’s youth and it’s enough to make your head spin and become very discouraging at the same time. 

Now, how do we not only survive this barrage, but use it to our advantage to both excel as professionals and ensure that our students learn the necessary skills to succeed when they leave our halls? We do this by providing support for our colleagues in order to help them weather the bad day or week and by remembering why we became teachers in the first place. We do this through finding what works for us and our students, then sharing that with our colleagues. We do this by realizing that we cannot do it all alone. We need to work together as school and district teams to determine the direction we feel is right for us to head and what tools, skills and training we need to reach our goals.

I have made a commitment to increase the level of access to educational technology in our district. We have worked hard over the last year building our infrastructure and increasing our wireless access, while at the same time getting more devices into the hands of teachers and students. This is merely a first step. We will continue adding to those resources and begin working to provide training in the use of those devices. We will work together to change our instructional practices and shift to meet our students in the digital world where they live much of their lives. This will not be a quick and easy transition. It will be difficult, challenging and frustrating. Most things that matter are not easy obtained or accomplished. We will fail at times, but pick ourselves up and try again. However, the end result will be an educational system designed to meet the needs of our students here in Ludlow.

Those of you who have read some of my previous posts may have garnered that I am not a fan of the current “Comprehensive School Reform Movement” in our country. I believe that it is neither comprehensive nor reformational. Old ideas are repackaged in new wrappers and lauded as the groundbreaking. Large foundations and businesses are driving change with minimal input from the professionals with knowledge to inform them of the challenges that the implementation of those procedures present. We are not afforded the time to effectively implement one initiative before another mandated initiative is thrown at us. In today’s educational environment it is like trying to teach while someone constantly hurls tennis balls at your head. Regardless of current legislative trends it is my belief that the narrow focus on accountability and standardized testing will not promote the educational changes or intellectual flexibility necessary to respond to the needs of today’s students.

The question remains, how do we shape these State and Federal mandates such that they work for us and not against the goals we have set? Some may argue that we have no true say in the matter, however, implementers of policy (and that is what we are) always have a say through a determination of which aspects of the myriad of policies confronting us that we choose to focus on and those with which we choose merely to comply.  

It is time for policy makers to recognize that true innovation will come not from bashing educators over the head with “accountability” or through the insistence on a scripted set of standards and procedures for obtaining anticipated outcomes. True success in public education will only come from engaging educators in a discussion and treating them as professionals who entered the profession to make a difference in the lives of our youth. We are all accountable in one way or another. We do not need to be continually reminded of that fact. We need to focus on inspiring our teachers to remember why they entered the profession, recognize excellence, reward innovation and create a climate where education and the schools are a valued part of the community. This is my focus and commitment to you, our schools and the Town of Ludlow. Thank you for a successful beginning to the school year. I look forward to continuing the work we have started. I look forward to continuing to push the instructional boundaries, challenge our students and ourselves to embrace change and find success.

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