Friday, January 17, 2014

Quick Question: Do I have to document this teacher?

I want to move a teacher from a reading specialist position back into the classroom.  My district has recently changed the responsibilities of the reading specialist from a pull-out model to a school level resource model.  Under the new model the teacher is expected to coach other teachers to improve their skills in literacy instruction - by modeling and leading inservices - rather than meet with students in a resource classroom.  While she was good reading teacher under the old system, her skills under the new system are subpar.  

I recently met with her and presented her with a letter outlining her deficiencies and the reasons for the move.  She acknowledged that she has not been successful this year but asked if we could complete the move without the letter.  So my question is this, can I retract the letter and still move her back to the classroom?

Short answer, I don’t think so.

By documenting her performance and your concerns in a letter you have formalized your thoughts and given credence to your actions.  You have lessened the chance that the move was arbitrary or based on other (protected ?) factors.

Let’s say that you acquiesce to the teacher’s request and make the move without supporting documentation.  The teacher thanks you and you think everything is fine.  After all, she admitted to that her current performance does not meet your standards.  You sleep well at night.  Flash forward three months and you get a call from the Human Resources Department letting you know that the teacher contacted the EEOC and charged you with age discrimination.  HR wants to see your documentation relating to the reassignment of the teacher.

“Ummmm, well you see I had it but the we kind of made this agreement and well now I just but ….”

You turn into a blathering idiot simply because you were trying to be nice.  

Documentation, and hopefully for this case you had more than just the letter, can be your best friend when it comes to defending yourself against employee claims.  Not only that, as the leader of the school it is your responsibility to accurately evaluate your teachers and employees and provide them with feedback related to their performance.  That may mean that you’ll be involved in many unpleasant and difficult conversations but making sure your teachers are up to the standards of your school and division is an #edleader’s chief responsibilities.  

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

7 Things I Believe

Wedding Dress For Happy Couple in Love

Here's something you probably don't know about me.  For most of my adult life, in addition to being a professional educator, I have been involved in para-church ministries.  I am a fully ordained arm-chair theologian.  For 8 years I served with the local police department as a chaplain responding to death investigations, homicides, suicides, stabbings, shootings, rapes, seeing all of the ugliness that the world has to offer.  (I am currently in the process of re-enlisting with the police department.)  Seeing the ugliest parts of mankind - it's sometimes hard not to become jaded.  One must remind one's self that life and humanity are basically good.  Life becomes a matter of faith.

Six years ago I started a wedding ministry performing weddings on the ocean front of Virginia Beach.  To date, I have performed somewhere in the neighborhood of  800 weddings.  Most of the people who come to see me are tourist who've come to Virginia Beach for the soul purpose of getting married.  They either don't have a local minister to perform the marriage or the local minister has turned them down because they don't fit a certain mold.  I'll marry anyone who comes to me - divorced, living together, gay of straight (actually gay couples can only have commitment ceremonies in Virginia but that's another post all together).  Some of the couples that strike me most are the ones who are getting married for the third or fourth time and have seven or eight weddings between them.  I think to myself, "I think after number 3 or 4 I'd give up on the whole institution of marriage." For these folks love becomes a matter of faith.  And faith can overcome just about anything.

Then I start to think about the educators I've known.  The teachers and administrators who show up everyday to meet the challenges of the school building.  They believe with every fiber of their being that every child can learn, every child can have a future, and every child can overcome adversity.  It doesn't always work - kids slip through the cracks, kids give up on themselves - but they face the schoolhouse every day holding on to the belief.  Education becomes a matter of faith.

This week I've run in to some teachers who have lost the faith.  I've heard them blame everyone from the superintendent on down for what's going on in their classrooms.  The same old lines, "The parents are bad." "The kids don't study." "I don't have the right technology." "They want me to do more with less." On and on.  They've lost the faith.

In my current position (I'm the one in HR that investigates teacher misconduct and poor performance) I'm often tempted to lose my faith.  When the cynicism creeps in I remind myself ...

  • I believe every child can learn.
  • I believe in the inherent goodness and innocence of children.
  • I believe children are not their parents, their neighborhood, or their behavior.
  • I believe every child deserves a fresh start, every day.
  • I believe adults should never bully children.
  • I believe I can have a positive impact on learning whatever my job title.
  • I believe it really is all about the kids.
Keep the faith.

Photo Credit (CC) - no real name given.


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