Friday, 22 October 2010

Backfiring: Assessment of Administrators

The management course

My head of house aspires to be a school manager. A week ago she sent me a form which I filled in with my feedback, cautiously, as personal trainers somewhere were going to use my assessment to judge on her proceedings in a management course. I bet she asked me because she knows I am versed in the lingo. Of course I was highly complimentary, which was not too difficult, because she really is doing a fine job, and I commented on something which could be worked on, as I know that you have to give something to the vultures.
This was the first time in my career as a teacher that I had been formally requested to comment on an administrator's performance, even then only for a course outside the school's remit.

Why do we let off our administrators scot-free?

What struck me was that the leader of our team was quite amazed that I had observed some flaw she was fully aware of but had been able to hush up so far while communicating with her superiors, who take her to be excelling in this particular management tool. In fact all of the teachers who attend the meetings she presides over have noted her proclivity for ad lib performances. Being a teacher she could have known that, we all know that our students spot immediately that we failed to prepare our lesson thoroughly, and those students accept such a lesson only if the improvisation is brilliant. If not it will be mayhem. My head of house has a radiant intelligence which make us teachers accept her poorly prepared meetings, we let her get away with it. In fact we like her a lot, which is fine. It would be better though to have well prepared meetings which offer us meaningful content instead of wasting our time with material that could have been delivered on paper beforehand as well.

It is time to backfire

I consider it grossly unfair that teachers are assessed by administrators, in which students' feedback and results are pivotal, while administrators are assessed by their superiors only. This highly corrupt system leads to administrators asking teachers to perform at an unattainable level. If only we produced the yardstick with which to measure our administrators, that would be a wholly different kettle of fish! It is about time we backfire using the same techniques and ideas we are being buffeted with all the time.

Foolish goals

For example: if administrators are asking us to differentiate our instructions for different learning styles, then they should realise that this logically entails allowing teachers different teaching styles. This would forbid them to issue a format for all. Instead they would have to observe our lessons, find out what we are good at, and what we could improve, and what just is out of reach given the limitations of our individual personalities. It certainly would make them more realistic. Assessment of administrators by their target audience, teachers, would close the gap between school leaders' aspirations and our daily grind.

PS

By the way, there is no scientific evidence for such a thing as "learning style." Differences in "teaching style" can be observed in schools everywhere, but it seems to me to be something to overcome, it is not a fixture. I've chosen these terms only as they represent the otherwordly atmosphere of educational buzz quite well.
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