Thursday, January 17, 2013

Sustaining quality under difficult conditions . . .

Today, I had the opportunity once again to meet with two principals to continue our conversations about instructional practice and support for teachers.  This followed a four hour meeting last night of all building level administrators focused on what our system must do to support implementation of  the state mandated Teacher Principal Evaluation Plan.  Though our focus is on student learning and instruction, our current reality was driven home to me in all three meetings and much of that current reality is driven by the large enrollment in our buildings and what we are asking of our administrators and teachers. The stress and anxiety levels continue to rise for these people as more is asked of them while we continue to place more students into spaces designed for far fewer.

I left the meeting last night with much dissonance and the need to reflect on the mental models I hold for the work of building level administrators.  My mental models have been formed with no experience in managing and providing instructional leadership in a large building.  Principal mental models are formed and influenced by their day-to-day interactions and experiences in our buildings.  As we all seek to make sense of the world around us these experiences influence what we see, hear, and believe.  I am very thankful and blessed with the capacity of our principals to maintain a focus on instruction while they manage these large buildings.

In one meeting today with a principal, I found myself needing to apologize for the environment we have created and for the expectations that she is owning.  She continually praised the work of her teachers while questioning how one person can provide them with the support that they want and deserve.  In the next meeting I experienced the frustration that the principal and staff live with daily, partly due to the large enrollment and partly due to programs operating in inadequate physical spaces.

We are asking much of all those that work in our buildings and departments and of the students who live and learn in those buildings.  My concerns for our continued success as a school system continue to grow as I experience the stress and anxiety resulting from our over-crowded learning environments.  We are doing an exceptional job by any measure, but the capacity to sustain our success diminishes with each new program mandated from outside and with each new student that enrolls in our system.

I am so proud and thankful for the commitment and passion that our people bring to their work.  I am at the same time saddened by our inability to provide quality learning environments and by the feelings of inadequacy that I heard from our administrators over the last two days.  They deserve better and our young people deserve better.  I look forward to working collaboratively with those in our school system who share these concerns and also believe that we can do a better job in support of quality learning, every day, in every classroom, for every child.  Let me know if you want to play an active role in the process to ensure that we change our current reality and create learning environments where learning and teaching can flourish without the stress brought on by over crowding.

1 comment:

Jonathan said...

I'll help, Mike. I have not done anything to help previously and I want to be part of the solution.