Saturday, January 15, 2011

Where Is Our Teacher?

Where Is Our Teacher?

Where is our teacher? This is a question students and parents ask whenever the classroom teacher is out. Student absenteeism is something that every school battles. Another attendance issue that schools face is that of teacher absenteeism. In a recent administrator’s meeting teacher attendance was brought up and it was reported that last year if we just took the teachers who missed 10 or more days (these were a combination of sick, personal, or professional leave) equaled to 39 years of teaching lost in a single year. The financial burden teacher absenteeism has on a district a major problem, but that does not compare to the other issues that are raised.

Like it or not teachers serve as role models and influence students’ perceptions about acceptable and unacceptable behavior. Research shows that teacher absenteeism negatively affects student performance. It also affects the attendance of the students. Chronic teacher absenteeism sends an underlying message that school attendance is not important. With the push to reform education and increase teacher quality, we must look at finding ways to improve teacher attendance.

What To Do?

There is a big push for districts to review their teacher attendance policies and provide principals more autonomy when it comes to dismissing teachers with chronic attendance issues. I believe that schools and districts address two issues: 1)Work to make educators (teachers, paraprofessionals, and administrators) aware of the importance of work attendance and its effect on student performance and 2) Encourage district policymakers to better implement and supplement existing policies through different strategy options. Focus on incentive-based systems rather than a punitive approach.

Just like attendance incentives schools give students who regularly are at school, why not provide teachers with incentives. I suggest those teachers who have perfect attendance receive a financial incentive from the district. Other ideas could be that teachers would be able to sell unused days back to the district. There may be those who say that this would push a district’s already tight budget further out. The example I have is that in our district every day a teacher is out costs us over $200.00 (salary , benefits and retirement). If we took some of that money and placed it in a fund that could be distributed to those who have a good attendance record. This would not alleviate teacher absenteeism, but it would decrease it. It would also save the district money.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Keeping Secrets

I had to apologize to my staff today. I had been keeping secrets from them. To make the matter worse, most everyone knew the secrets already. You see, one of our secretaries had come to me before Thanksgiving, expressing interest in a position at the high school. She asked me to call the principal at the high school and put a good word in for her which I did. She also expressed that according to the counseling office where the position was at that she was a shoe in. I told her to keep it under the radar until we knew something official.

Being the type to try to stay ahead of the game, I called one of your paraprofessionals in to see if they would be interested if the transfer went through to take the office position. Again I ask that our conversation be confidential, and before the day was out the secrets were out. I am telling you the NFL and College football rumors about what coach is being fired or hired have nothing on the rumor mill of a school.

It was not until the day we got out for the Christmas break did I get word from personnel that the transfers looked like a good possibility and not until today that they were made official. Throughout this whole process I kept tight lipped about issues, because best laid plans can become derailed.

I feel one of the biggest secrets we have in education is that we have really good teachers out there giving it their best. But the issues that make the evening news, is how the “American Education System” is failing our children. Documentaries like “The Cartel” and “Waiting for Superman” paint a dreadful picture of public education and how parents and children are suffering. Does public education have room for improvement? Yes. Are there those in the teaching profession that need to go? Yes. Do we need to provide better educational opportunities for our children? Yes.

With that said, I see good teaching going on everyday. Teachers, who put math lessons into real-life situations by having students learn how to cut a chicken to get the most pieces for a lunch, then cook the chicken and allow the students to eat the completed product. I see teachers creating environments where the students talk among themselves about a particular text they are reading. Teachers taking students on a field trip to the municipal building to allow them to see how the government they study is put into action. Teachers are doing the best they can.

There will always be room for improvement in our public schools and it is my job as the principal to provide them with opportunities to improve their skills, through research of best practices and to instill in them the desire to continue learning. I need to be an example to my teachers as a life-long learning by trying new things. Let me know what you thoughts are.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Its All a Matter of Perspective

Well it is official; school is back in session after the Christmas Break. Yesterday, the faculty and staff returned for a workday and today the students returned. The school has been bustling with activity from new families coming to school registering their children to the Central Office beginning their dissemination of guidelines and mandates from the state.

One of the best parts of my day is when I am out of the office and visiting classes or out on the playground during recess. Today when I was making my rounds during afternoon recess one of our second girls came up to me and said, “You look handsome today.” Now for a bald, fifty year old man with a paunch in the middle that really made my day. The interesting thing was watching the reaction of the students around this little girl. The looks they gave her were like, are you crazy? It was a matter of perspective that this child for some reason that even baffles me would give a complement such as this.

Wouldn’t life be so much more enjoyable if we took the time to have a different perspective on the situations we face? To find something good in each circumstance that we find ourselves in. Yesterday, I spent the day just going around asking my staff how their holiday break was. It was an enjoyable day for me since I took the time to step back and forget about the upcoming state tests, the reports the Central Office needs, or the filling of vacant positions and just talk to my staff. To get a different perspective of how I view them.

The things they shared with me were truly a gift. I had a teacher who got engaged, another who purchased a fifth wheel trailer and who shared information about the upcoming trip to Colorado this summer, still another shared they got a new Boston terrier puppy, while other shared the joy of spending time with loved ones. I feel that by asking them to share, they saw me in a different perspective as not only their boss, but that I wanted to truly get to know them in a more personal sense and this creates a true sense of belonging, and isn’t that what we all want.

To me, Country music really hits home when it comes to life. One of George Strait’s most recent releases entitled “The Breath You Take” makes us think about how we view life events. The lyrics of the chorus really talk to me about perspective. They go like this:

“Life’s not the breath you take.

Breathing, in and out,

that gets you through the day,

ain’t what its all about.

You just might miss the point,

trying to win the race.

Life’s not the breath you take,

but the moments that take your breath away.”

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Be A Part of the Solution

Well we are now starting the second decade of the 22nd Century with the introduction of 2011. 2010 brought us some great moments such as the rescue of the Chilean miners and my Oklahoma State Cowboys won 11 games and the Alamo Bowl, GO POKES!

However most of the newsworthy events of the past year seemed to placing blame to another party. The Gulf Oil Spill had fingers pointing at BP, the federal government, and the state government. We have Republicans blaming Democrats for the economic woes and vice versa. When did facing a problem mean trying to panning it off to another person, organization, or political party?

My parents taught my siblings and me when a problem comes our way to face it head on. Don’t try to place blame, but work to get the problem fixed. In 2011 our economy is still sluggish, wars still rage on, and there are millions of people who go hungry every day. If we put our energies into solving problems and not trying to place blame just think what we could do.

My resolutions for 2011 are:

1. Be a part of the solution not the problem.

2. Spend time studying the Bible and reflecting on what I have studied ( I am using the 2011 Upper Room Devotional Study Book)

3. Make a point to build people up not tear them down

For those who read this I ask for your prayers and suggestions you may have to assist me in following through with these resolution and I hope that the word will be spread that in order for us resolve problems that we all face.