63. Breaking Stereotypical Perspectives

Jackie is a caring, intelligent, and dedicated third grade teacher. She loves her students, and they love her.

She is dependable. Respected by peers and her students’ parents.

Her principal’s evaluations place her in the exemplary category.

Jackie maintained an excellent grade point average on the way to earning her Bachelor of Science in Education degree.

She is exploring the possibility of earning a master’s degree in elementary education.

Jackie’s lesson plans are works of art. Thorough, organized and well researched in terms of meeting state standards.

Classroom management could not be better. Students are motivated to stay on task and accurately complete assignments. Parents are uniformly positive about what their children say about Jackie and her classroom. 

Standardized tests data collected on Jackie’s students show them meeting requirements at the 80th percentile or better. Students needing extra attention readily receive it in the classroom or through referrals to professional support personnel.

Jackie is married to a respected businessman in the community and active in a local church. Their two children attend the school in which their mother teaches.

As an alumnus, Jackie regularly supports the sorority to which she belonged as an undergraduate.

But Jackie has concerns about the different ways of thinking linked to the new learning infrastructure. Her reactions will not only impact improvement strategies but may cause a disconcerting effect on colleagues who respect her.

Many of those colleagues share Jackie’s competence and concerns. They are typically not as open as she was during the SAC meeting.

They will honestly try to participate in the new way of doing things. But will quietly accede to instructions — until this innovation disappears like others in the past.

It is just TYNT (this year’s new thing).

Many secondary school teachers have a similar demeanor as Jackie. But they focus on the subjects they enjoy teaching. As students they were good at math, science, language arts or some other subject. They entered education because of their academic passion.

Some try to emulate their college professors with inspiring lectures, experiments, and innovative instructional strategies. Those who build good relationships with students and increase their enthusiasm. Highly respected by both the young people and their parents.

The Conundrum

Teachers such as Jackie and her elementary school associates, as well as exceptional teachers at the secondary level, are pedagogical stars. Admired and emulated, they receive awards and often get media attention.

They are declared to be special. The kinds of teachers all others should emulate.

It is a cultural phenomenon most evident in the United States. We praise exceptionality in all walks of life: sports, business, community service, politics, and other kinds of achievement.

Jackie and teachers like her are exceptional and admired.

Entrepreneurship is built on the admiration of exceptionality, because others are encouraged to emulate that behavior. Recognition of exceptional persons is the driver for nurturing ambition and achieving excellence.

It is also the foundation of competition of all kinds: making money, achieving social status, gaining authority, acquiring possessions, receiving recognition, and being admired for certain positive characteristics.

Elements of our culture continue to value the benefits of competition — a significant reason for NCLB’s development. Pitting schools and teachers against each other will theoretically make them work harder. Make students more successful.

This theory is based on the idea education will improve if there is evidence one school or district is doing a better job in causing students to learn. Local boards, real estate agents, patrons and parents put pressure on deficient schools to do a better job. Especially if “state report cards on schools and districts” report data that reflect inferior performance.

They believe one way to improve performance is to encourage all teachers to be more like pedagogical stars. A pervasive belief that overlooks conditions in which no one has control.

 Conditions such as:

  • socio-economic factors (poverty and broken homes) that interfere with school improvement initiatives
  • authoritarian leadership (usually from building principals) that makes teaching and learning dysfunctional
  • internal staff jealousies that create a toxic work environment.

Those who believe competition and emulation of pedagogical stars will improve schools have created a conundrum. If schools cannot be improved that way, what is an acceptable alternative? More money or increased micromanagement are not solutions.

What is the solution?

Teams

Americans have created a mythology associated with the adulation of individual ability. Depicted by fictional heroes, comic books and films. Settings include war, commerce, politics, science, exploration, crime, and a myriad of human interactions.

Special people we admire in history and novels seem to have no faults. They rarely need help. They accomplish the seemingly impossible through rugged individualism.

Inspiring. But also nonsense.

Accomplishments are always the product of cooperative endeavors, even when one name rises above others.

Teamwork is involved, with heroes serving as leaders. Decisions and actions of leaders are always influenced by sidekicks. Or someone in the background.

Heroic leaders appreciate and acknowledge the help of associates. These associates are appreciated and show it through their cooperativeness and friendship with the leader.

They become a team. One for all and all for one.

Before the imposition of NCLB, schools were experimenting with teaming. The two most prevalent models were:

  • interdisciplinary structure used in grades six through eight middle schools
  • intradisciplinary organizational systems in high schools

Middle school theory emphasizes the social and emotional development of young people transitioning from childhood to adulthood. Based on research proving that social and emotional development is intertwined with cognitive, linguistic, and academic progress.

Teams of teachers made up of the standard curricular divisions (math, science, social studies and language arts) meet regularly. They discuss student progress and use project teaching to underscore how previously taught skills are applied in real life.

Intradisciplinary teams, usually at the high school level, did much of the same. Gauging student progress and making extensive use of project teaching and learning.

The Transition

Pedagogical stars do not need a team. They are already part of a faculty team led by a building principal. Who gives them glowing evaluations.

The new learning infrastructure teams at all levels and categories. The kind of teaming that transcends sporadic and fragmented teaming used in earlier years.

It absorbs everyone into the fundamentals of curriculum development and implementation.

Jackie and other pedagogical stars will learn to adapt to this kind of teaming.

©2022 Stu Ervay – All Rights Reserved

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