As a former teacher, curriculum developer, university professor, and researcher of rural realities in five of Canada’s provinces, I have faced each of Dr. Glaze’s recommendations concerning school administration.
While some are well placed, the essence of change is towards further bureaucratization of a complex system. For instance, dividing administrators from teachers creates an often unhealthy “us and them” atmosphere, and it dangerously impedes the movement of educators between classroom and admin office. As well, consolidation of school boards spells less, rather than greater, communication between central offices (Halifax in this case, I assume) and rural communities. And consolidation elsewhere has not realized the promise of monetary savings.
But my main concern is that, in search of a simple answer to a complex situation, we once more blame teachers who too often face overcrowded classrooms, disruptive students (with inadequate teacher assistance), and school policies that permit tardiness and ignored assignments. Of course we have, and have had always “weak teachers,” but we also have weak administrators. Contributing to both categories are the truncated courses we now provide for educators-in-training. University courses which 30 years ago ran for an entire term of 12 weeks, are now ‘successfully’ covered in 11/12 consecutive teaching days. The rationality is that students receive the same number of contact hours with their instructor. The reality is that students have little opportunity to read, reflect, discuss, write and digest critical feedback.
Each school’s performance can be improved and most teachers and administrators are working diligently towards this goal. But to tackle the underlying problems, we must look to the quality of educator preparation and available inservice. We must work ‘with’ and not ‘on’ teachers; their input, along with that of administrators and university representatives, is essential to success.
Dr. Carol E. Harris
Professor Emeritus, Leadership Studies, University of Victoria
Adjunct Professor, Acadia University