Lance Scranton: A light at the end of the tunnel?
As the academic year wraps up, it has been a tumultuous time for teachers in our district who have taken on the burden of carrying the heavy load of financial insecurity, academic scrutiny and leadership adjustments. As teachers enter a second year of pay freezes and continued budget cuts, it can be difficult to see a light at the end of the tunnel. Finances can be arranged a number of ways, but one thing is certain: teachers were expected to do much more with less and less this past year than at any other time during my 17-year tenure.
Academic reports and test score results have led to increased scrutiny of teaching practices and learning outcomes. Once again, teachers have been charged with implementing new practices designed to increase rigor and improve test scores. Test scores appear to be the temple at which we worship these days and teachers are finding it difficult, if not impossible, to manage classroom learning while being professionally scrutinized more than ever. Salary freezes coupled with new evaluation systems designed have contributed to an unusually large amount of teachers leaving our district.
Mix pay freezes and increased scrutiny with leadership changes and the result can often be a difficult dance with partners not certain who should lead and if the steps might not cause a few stumbles. For sure, leadership is critical during this difficult time, but severing the relational aspect of our profession should never be jeopardized because our work is super important and definitely worth doing.
But, how we treat each other is what will be remembered.
Some believe that school needs to be more like a business and run like a corporation with definite decision-makers in charge leading the way. Others think that shared servant-leadership is how we get the best results in a highly social institution that involves young people with developing minds and erratic emotions who make up our product.
Every teacher that I have talked to over the past many months believes strongly in our students and their capabilities. Societal changes and family difficulties make learning a challenge these days and support systems are important to help children achieve academically. I might suggest that teachers need some support as well and would welcome some bit of hope for their struggles as they commit themselves to making our schools more than just places where test scores are allowed to tell the whole story of what we do in schools each and every day.
I have been accused of being eternally optimistic, but I believe that we will figure all this out and our school district will be stronger because of the challenges we face.
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