Saturday, January 29, 2011

Teaching 2030: Hybrid Jobs

I have just finished reading Teaching 2030 which is written by Barnett Berry and twelve outstanding teachers in the field. I have the utmost respect for this group of educators. I have had the opportunity to work with them virtually for several years as part of the TLN Network. Their expertise in understanding the landscape and their creativity in envisioning the future is unparalleled in anything I have read to date. This book explains "what we must do for our students and our public schools now and in the future" with an eye on what teaching will look like in 2030. I will most certainly not be teaching in the year 2030, but this is the first book in a long time that gives me hope amidst the rainstorm of sanctions and expectations that are flooding a teacher's landscape these days. Sometimes I wonder when in the world "they" actually expect me to teach! I would like to comment on several of the ideas from the book. This post will addresses hybrid jobs.

The Teacher Solutions 2030 Team writes eloquently about hybrid jobs for teachers - jobs that combine teaching with other types of leadership. I had one of those jobs for 10 years. I spent half my day as a Special Education teacher and the other half as a Literacy Coach for Kindergarten and First Grade teachers in the same school. I was able to coach from within the classroom which, I think, gave me a perspective that most teachers nor coaches have. I was able to try out the things that I was asking my teacher colleagues to do which made the coaching so much more authentic. I was not the only person at my school in this type position. We had other literacy teachers doing what I was doing and also Math teachers who taught half day and coached the other half. We have a Special Education teacher right now who teaches small groups but also handles most of the discipline at our school and has established a tutoring center in one of our neighborhoods. She's partnered with a local church to provide food, clothes, medical attention and all sorts of resources. She is working with our county technology department to establish a middle and high school course recovery/ tutoring center to help with the drop out rate in that neighborhood. I could go one and on. This is NOT a county initiative but the grassroots effort of a leadership team in a single school led by a principal who is willing to take a risk. As a result teachers have been willing to give 110% - over and above - to make the impossible happen. We have over 20 NBCT among our ranks with leadership ability oozing from their pores!

Unfortunately, while the vision and energy are at the school, the money for such innovation is drying up. This year there simply was no money nor the ability to creatively use money to provide for half time teaching positions, except for the last one I mentioned. I think we were so ahead of our time, but to continue to stay in that arena is a constant fight. We are fortunate that we are an "A" school in our state and have been meeting AYP or we would not continue to have the small amount of autonomy that we are able to maintain. You would think that we have proven that we can handle our children and that the ropes that continue to hold us down would loosen, but that does not seem to be the case.

What I love about this book is that it presents a hopeful vision for teachers who will not have to leave the classroom to lead. It gives teachers, like me, who love being with children but who want to do so much more, a chance for a future that can combine all of the things that we love. These authors that it will not be the carrot and stick merit pay of our present that will motivate us but it will be the working conditions of a principal who cultivates teacher leadership, the time and tools to learn from each other and the opportunities to take risks that will lure us. Whether these conditions are in our best or our neediest schools will not matter because we will go because we want to make a difference. To realization of that dream is our promise for the future.

1 comment:

Suzanne said...

I miss the days when we could afford 1/2 day in classroom coaching. When coaches were focused on a couple of grade levels and they could spend quality time teaching along side their colleagues, I observed noticable change. I'm not sure anything has made as much of an impact since. I worry that over time as we add new peers this benefit will turn to dust and blow away. I often wonder, how is it that we've been forced to go back in time?