No doubt, I have been an audacious teacher/writer. Not only have I burned numerous flimsy bridges with my writing, but I have also managed to make the nebulous appear obvious. Maybe this is why districts, an outdated and secretive, protective and nondemocratic, typically top heavy structure, do nothing to support the teacher/writer. But recently the value of the teacher/writer is recognizable, districts are starting to loosen up, and the right to self-express is beginning to get some support.
Obviously, the silencing of teachers, as they perform their duties and recognize ethical failures, has been a feature of the education reform movement. The promotion of highly unqualified people into leadership positions has been a frequent topic of the teacher/writer as reformers use excuses and business models to circumvent regulations and place nonprofessional educators into school environments. I wrote extensively about my 28-year old high school principal, my elementary educator instructional coach, and other nonprofessionals that had been placed in positions that should take a minimum of 7 years of teaching experience, and an advanced degree, to even begin training for.
Many of my comments, my posts, and my opinions have been shared, and this ability to discuss and affect policy has helped me improve my writing and feel as if I am part of the movement to salvage relationships between administrations, teachers, and the public. But most importantly, the teacher/writer can help return the well-trained professional to the administrative role. Instead of trying to devalue the teacher currency and create an intellectual deficit, districts are beginning to recognize the importance of ethical and responsible leadership.
For example, I feel as if I am shortchanged as a teacher if my instructional coach has not earned his/her stripes in the classroom. Someone that has been teaching no longer than myself should not be placed in a leadership role. Teachers, in their writings, complain about unethical behavior stemming from unprofessional discussions--hallway discussions, gossip sessions, and misinformation that creates a hostile work environment. Having been a recipient of drama-queen-fabricated-nonsense myself, I can report about the devastating outcomes from a first-hand perspective. True professionals recognize the legal and ethical consequences of engaging in disparaging, negative behavior.
I have witnessed a long parade of teachers come and go from the English classroom, many of them with degrees that have nothing to do with the teaching of literacy skills. I have been privileged to know the business communications major, the journalism major, the accountant, the foreign language guy, the business major, and a whole slew of other types of people that did not write themselves, and rarely cracked a book. Clearly, the teacher/writer is needed in public school. Clearly, the State of Texas at least, needs to find a way to better vet teachers and match them to appropriate positions.
Just yesterday, I received a very disturbing email from my child's high school. He attends one of the state's most highly rated schools, and his principal is a true professional. But the district superintendent retired, and now a new one is in charge. The new superintendent appears as if he is trying to fix something that is not broken. He is asking students to spend valuable class time to fill out a survey about certain aspects of their school experience.
Some of the questions that have been revealed to parents concern school safety and other matters. But the full list of questions has not been released, and the email was posted after hours yesterday. You can opt your student out of the survey, and I am sure some parents will. Student surveys, even parent surveys, are often fraught with faulty data. The best way to enact change in a district is to attend the school board meeting, listen to concerns, and have your voice heard.
As a teacher, and a parent, I totally disagree with allowing students to answer these types of surveys. This is a useless waste of valuable instructional time. I can just imagine some of the answers...we are asking students (teenagers) to give adult like answers in an open forum. Think about that. Anyone that has a teenager, anyone that teaches teenagers, and anyone with any child development background can already speculate about the quality of this data.
And so, with that in mind, I am writing today about the teacher/writer experience. I am also trying to decide between two books: The Teacher-Writer by Christine M. Dawson, and Coaching Teacher-Writers by Troy Hicks et al. Until teacher/writers are nurtured and supported, institutions of higher education will continue to complain about the quality of student writers, the skills of literacy will continue to diminish, and English departments will continue to welcome nonprofessionals into their classrooms.