The First Day of School: Queasy After All These Years …

Get up son it’s the first day of school.

I not going …

It’s the first day, you have to go.

Mom, the kids make fun of me, the teachers don’t listen to me, I
don’t want to go!

You have to go, you’re the principal.

Whether a first year teacher or a grizzled veteran you toss and turn the night before that first reporting day.

As the staff rolls into the building the culture of the building ignites. Claques
re-form: the car poolers from the burbs, the mothers whose primary concern is
day care for their own kids, the cynical “old timers,” the “bright-eyed” newcomers, all mingle awaiting the “words of wisdom” from the school leader.

In New York City supervisors have been in school for a week planning and getting the building ready. Scrambling to fill vacancies, should I hire that ten year math teacher from the ATR pool? Why was he excessed? Was there some “problem”? Can a first year teacher handle a self-contained Special Ed class? And, those “new” initiatives: this year “frequent cycles of brief observations
with meaningful feedback,” utilizing the Danielson Frameworks, (the
updated 2011 edition) and beginning to implement the Common Core State
Standards.

The school leader asks: How can I convince, motivate and engage the staff?

How can I inform, collaborate and lead?

The GB Shaw story: Shaw was moderating a panel and he warned the speaker he had fifteen minutes, the speaker responded, “I’m an expert, I know a great
deal, how can I tell all I know in fifteen minutes?” Shaw responded, “Speak slowly.”

As the teachers gather for the first meeting: will they be sitting on the edge of
their seats hungering for the words of wisdom? Or, surreptitiously filling out
the football pool or texting?

This is the first time in years that the Department and the Union
are somewhat on the same wave length. The Department is asking each school to
work on implementing at least one of the Common Core State Standards in ELA and Math and the Union is emphasizing the need to develop curriculum to support the standards.

The Department and the Union seem agreed upon the use of the Danielson Frameworks as the evaluation tool.

Schools, with the support of the Union, have been encouraged to create common planning time for staff. Will supervisors be able to move from the role of the administrator who mechanically observes teachers a few times a year to a “critical friend” who engages in “frequent cycles of brief observations with meaningful feedback”?

Will common planning time evolve into “bitch” sessions or discussions of
instructional practices centered on student needs?

On one hand the Union is in court over regulations governing the new teacher
evaluation system, the teacher contract expired in November 2009 and no new
contract is on the horizon, the Mayor jabs at the Union president every chance
he gets, yet, on the education side Tweed and the Union are putting their toes
in the same water, edging towards a more collaborative school system.

As the queasiness disappears and the bright, eager faces show up on September 8th another school year will begin; very little from the top, except the threats of
school closings based on test scores usually filters down to the classroom.

Do the “middle managers,” the principals and the assistant principals,
have the skills to engage teachers, to both collaborate and lead?

This year maybe, just maybe, the leadership and the troops are on a similar wave
length.

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4 responses to “The First Day of School: Queasy After All These Years …

  1. And let’s not forget that the Mayor and Mulgrew are on the same page regarding the cheating scandal. Bloomberg denies that cheating is a problem and Mulgrew the Silent apparently agrees. Both are protecting their interests. The former pretends that that the unprecedented 2010 grad rates were not corrupted by Regents tampering and the latter that his members’ hands are not dirty from all that scrubbing.

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  2. The students would no doubt appreciate it if the teachers and administrators could agree on a solid curriculum…

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  3. WHY NOT INITIATE THE NEW SCOOL YEAR WITH HOPE? THE PRINCIPAL,THE LEADER OF THE SCHOOL MUST CONVINCE THE STAFF THAT HE/SHE IS THE CAPTAIN OF THE TEAM. A GOOD LINEUP STRIVING TOGETHER CAN BE WINNERS.. FOR THE KIDS ,FOR THE PARENTS, FOR THEMSELVES AND FOR THE CITY.CONVINCING THE TEAM THAT THE LEADER IS THERE TO MAKE THEM ALLSTAR PLAYERS IS DONE BY ENCOURAGING. ESPRIT DE CORPS;NOT BY THREATS AND PUNISHMENT…FOR THOSE WHO CANNOT CUT THE MUSTARD, THE LEADER MUST DECISIVELY LEAD THAT.. PERSON TO LEAVE THE PROFESSION.I URGE YOU TO GOOGLE THE FILM”PAPER CLIPS.” IN THAT FILM YOU WILL SEE WHAT A PRINCIPAL WHO ENCOURAGES TWO TEACHERS TO RUN WITH THEIR IDEA FOR A PROGRAM, UNFETTERED BY WARNINGS OR RESTRICTIONS. THIS IS THE BEST EXAMPLE OF COLLEGIALITY I HAVE EVER SEEN…TEACHERS LEFT TO BE TEACHERS IS BEST WAY TO IMPROVE OUR SCHOOLS;NOT THE FADS THAT POP UP PERIOIDICALLY.

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  4. So I hear Eva Moskowitz, that bastion of educational reform, has found the answer to early childhood education in her charter schools. Give the newly arrived pre-k children 1 -2 hours of homework each night writing the alphabet 25x! Don’t let me forget, that includes their names as well.
    Isn’t that considered corporal punishment under DOE guidelines?
    I guess that’s what you get for $450,000.
    Let me paraphrase an oldie but goodie,” Where have all the “scholars” gone, long time passing?”
    As a very great man once said,” We were here before they came and we will be here when they’re gone!”

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