As an Instructional Technology Specialist, or coach, I have gathered a significant amount of hours in the Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment category. Throughout the course of this semester, I have been involved in many curriculum, instruction, and assessment activities, from days at conferences, informal observations of teachers, to PLC meetings, to individual one-on-ones with teachers. I have gathered much experience and foresight from this process. These have been useful, as for much of my time in the classroom, I was only in my classroom. I had little time to experiment or be in other classrooms to see different types of teaching styles. I had little time to observe the power of well done PLCs, as the PLCs I was a part of routinely divulged into complaining about specific students or the administration. Basically, my experience as a classroom teacher was just in my classroom, with little room for other items. For the focus of this reflection, I want to choose a meeting and an observation with an 8th grade social studies teacher, as it provided me with a significant amount to think and reflect upon for my professional growth.
The meeting started by discussing an upcoming project that he wanted to do in his class. The meeting, which was just to cover the last minute details, turned into a session where I was put in the role of being someone of support and nurturing as the teacher unloaded on me. One generally uncomfortable for me. We were there to start a project during the next hour in which our students were going to become newspaper editors and design the print edition of a colonial newspaper as we prepared for war with the British during the American Revolution. The session quickly diverted into a session in which the teacher was unloading many issues on me.
During this unload session, he stated a few things that I thought were important. First, he felt that technology in the classroom was another initiative and was going to change in a few years. He was upset about the amount of work that he feels is being demanded of classroom teachers as well as the systems and structures that are put in place to gather data. We then talked about teacher observations and how those are going to play out. While he is doing this, I had to do something difficult for me. First, I must find a way to be emphatic with the teacher, but I must also not cross the lines of the district policies put in place. Being empathetic is something that is a goal of mine, and I wanted to be sure that I could be supportive, yet instill confidence in the teacher that the district is heading in the right direction and trying to shore up curriculum, assessment, and instruction in all classrooms to ensure that all curriculum is viable.
This is something that I have had much experience with in my previous school, as we were working hard to get the school to head in the right direction. As a teacher, it meant significant change in practice and expectations, but I had to weigh the purpose and goals of the activities. I found it would ensure that all colleagues were developing, delivering, and working towards higher student skills to be employable, which was the ultimate goal. As I sat in the classroom having this conversation, I could identify where the teacher was coming from. I fully understand the significant undertakings that the district is trying to accomplish. Yet, I understand what the teacher is saying and how the teacher is perceiving these changes. This conversation gave me a chance to try to be supportive of the teacher in what he is doing and what he believes, but allowed me to wear the hat of an administrator in supporting the ultimate goal of the district in what we are all trying to accomplish.
For me, it was the opportunity to toe the difficult line that I will have to do as an administrator. I was stuck in feeling empathetic with the teacher, but supportive of the district’s policies and initiatives, all while not seeming like a “company man.” Looking back and reflecting on the conversations, I think many things could have gone better, for instance, I could have worked more to assure and support the teacher with my empathy. On the flip side, I should have also tried to make sure that I was ultra clear on the district policies and initiatives. I was caught off guard and felt like a deer stuck in the headlights of oncoming traffic. Ultimately, I scooted out of the way, but the goal will be to fix the perceived mend between teachers and administrators. The goal needs to be a fully united front striving to improve educational outcomes for all students.