Monday, July 27, 2009

100% Together

One of the greatest frustrations for a teacher or administrator is to be working toward the enforcement of a school rule or policy or toward the achievement of the school's goals and objectives and to realize that other faculty members are not. School dress code may prohibit a student from wearing a t-shirt that advertises alcoholic beverages. Still, a student wearing such a shirt may get to third, fourth, or even sixth or seventh period before anyone takes issue and confronts the student. Is it any wonder that the student responds by saying nobody else said anything to him, suggesting that it was okay to wear the shirt?

The examples abound. One school decides to try a sustained silent reading program, having everyone reading for twenty minutes of every day. This goes over well in several classes, but a few teachers don't like the idea and communicate indifference through their body language and their actions. Students in their classes recognize that the teacher does not support the program; therefore, they don't take it seriously. Consequently, the program fails to meet its expectations. The non-compliant teacher is vindicated. But the reality is that the program was never fully implemented; therefore, there was no genuine failure in the program, only a failure in getting 100% commitment from the faculty.

Arguments are made consistently against any and all educational reform efforts and new practices, with the primary argument being that a school can never get 100% of the teachers committed to the new practice. But the bottom line is that these same teachers were hired to work as a team with the existing faculty and with the faculty that was hired after them. A personal and conscious decision not to comply with an established school policy or practice is a violation of the trust of the contract that the teacher entered into with the school. And this is grounds for dismissal.

This is not to say that one cannot disagree. Everyone should be allowed a time and opportunity to express his or her sentiments regarding a proposed policy or practice. Naturally, it would be in that person's better interest to provide the research that supports the opposing view; when opinions are presented without support, they are easily dismissed. Regardless, when the decision is then made regarding the policy or practice, the teacher or administrator has no other recourse than to be in 100% support of the implementation of the policy or practice.

Emerson stated that "Conformity is the hobgoblin of little minds" and that is true. And to some extent it is appropriate for a system to experience brief bursts of nonconformity. But when it comes to the system making a commitment to a practice or policy that has been well researched, well discussed, and well considered, it is in the better interest that everyone commit to the success of the policy or practice. There are times when conformity can be the better choice.


  1. The key to effective SSR is to properly match reading levels of the text to reading levels of the student, while maintaining some semblance of student choice.

    Learn how to match reading levels of texts to reading levels of your students without time-consuming assessments. Also, learn how much independent reading is needed to make grade to grade progress. Check out How to Choose the Right Book.

  2. Leadership in schools changes every 2 or 3 years. Too often, they throw out all of the old practices and bring in new. Programs are never given sufficient time to succeed before new leaders end them. It becomes easy to see why teachers disregard the new, close their door and do what they believe. They too are passionate about their beliefs (well some of thm) and they will sitting in that same classroom long after the new leader's policies have left the building. I'm not advocating that they refuse change, but I have come to understand their frustration.