How I Deal with Life.....

How I Deal with Life.....

Monday, May 14, 2012

He Ain't Heavy; He's my Education Administrator

I started writing an in-depth, detailed research blog entry on one of the reasons that American schools are failing at a dizzying rate no matter how much money we siphon into them.  I got so bogged down in the research that I started foaming at the mouth and was developing a nasty twitch in my left eye, so I hit "delete" and started over.

Breathe a sigh of relief, here.  I am not going to cite my sources or back up my opinions with too much rhetoric. You’re smart enough to research it yourself.

So, without further ado: THE NUMBER THREE REASON AMERICAN SCHOOLS ARE FAILING (NCLB is # 1 and shitty parenting is #2):

The boards of education in the various counties across the United States are more concerned with the title that is in front of potential administrators’ names instead of the reputations, success rates, university credentials, and educational IN CLASS experiences of superintendent and principal applicants.

Come on, people. Just because someone has a Ed.D does not mean they are qualified, especially when a lot of these Ed.D’s are coming straight out of purely for profit online “universities”  that do not possess any real credibility or valued reputations within higher education circles. These online degree mills do not demand the same rigor as conventional universities, thus the knowledge and skills of the graduates are sub par to what was expected and demanded of every doctoral education administrator candidate in all universities as recently as a decade ago, and is still being demanded at reputable and longstanding universities. You think dissertation standards at those for profit only online universities are in any way rigorous? Research the so called dissertations from these degree mills. It’ll make you laugh, then cry. Go ahead, I dare you.

But, anyway, how could I, a lowly high school English teacher, accuse certain online degrees of being virtually worthless in areas of rigor and credibility? Where do I get my information? Glad you asked.

I took two courses from a purely online university towards a Masters degree before deciding that the rigor was laughable and my fellow students were grammatical morons who possessed the reasoning skills of trained seals, and the trained seals were passing the courses with high grades! I was sick one night and had a paper due the next morning. I have no idea what I wrote and submitted, and after I got well two days later I read the paper and it was complete gibberish, but I received an "A" for my gibberish. It was, by the way, one of the so called better online universities (not all online universities fall into this dubious/distinctive category; the more established ones who, pre-internet,  already enjoyed valued reputations as brick and mortar universities offer some very relevant and rigorous course work).

So, (question time again) why do we fill our public school leadership slots with less than reputable online university degree holding administrators, and then scratch our heads in wonder as to why we are lacking true substance? We sit back and watch as our public school test scores become the "be all",  true learning continues to plummet, school culture continues to head into the shitter, and teachers keep leaving the profession in droves (I simply love the word "droves" and I have been searching for a way to work it into this little diatribe from the beginning). It takes much more than a fashionably expensive suit, fancy letters after a name, a fresh haircut, thoughtful posturing, and clichéd rhetoric to turn our schools around. Remember the children’s story, “The Emperor’s New Clothes”? Everyone knew the emperor was really naked, but no one wanted to say it out loud for fear of reprisals from the emperor. All it took was for one small child to say, “The emperor has no clothes on” before anyone else would admit to their own part in the delusion.

Substandard educational degrees from questionable and less than stellar reputation online universities create poor administrators.  Poor administrators cannot lead teachers. Poor administrators cannot turn failing schools around. Poor administrators just bounce from school district to school district seeking out Boards of Ed who just like to be able to introduce their administrators by the title, “Doctor”.  The title just sounds better and makes everyone on the board appear smart. No one is concerned with the reality and the truth. As long as the outside appears a certain way, it doesn’t matter what the inside is.  The best administrators I ever have ever had the pleasure of working for did not carry letters after their names, but were true lifelong educators who had a passion and knowledge of how education works. They could keep the wheels turning, command respect from his/her teachers, and not get drawn into the “good ole boy/gal” education network.  That network is pervasive, lacks any substance, and is going to be the undoing of our public schools.

I have edited enough “Doctor” administrators’ writings (at their insistence) to know they couldn’t write their way out of a high school English class if their shiny wingtips depended on it. I have had an administrator insist that an author’s purpose and theme were not related at all and hinted that if I wanted to have a passing evaluation I had better remember that. When I told an administrator I was a “good” teacher, I was reprimanded with, “We don’t need good teachers; we need effective ones”.  I have been instructed to order hundreds of dollars in classroom materials and textbooks for a Drama class only to have the class canceled after two semesters, much to the dismay of the students.  Those materials and texts, to my knowledge, are still sitting on a shelf somewhere collecting dust.  I could go on and on and turn this into the longest paragraph in the history of blogging. But, I won't. I will have mercy because if you are a teacher, you have your own little Ripley's Believe it or Not administrator stories to tell that could probably make mine seem like a trip to Disneyland. And if you are not a public school teacher, you'll just think I am exaggerating anyway.

A personal note to administrators: I have heard enough clichéd educational jargon to last me until Gabriel blows his proverbial trumpet. If I never hear, “Knowledge is Power” or “Every Child Can Learn” again, it will be too soon. Drop the clichés. Show me action. Show me true leadership. Help me to actually be a better teacher; don't  keep tearing me down to make yourself look better. Don't make me sit though hours upon hours of professional development that does nothing other than attempt to connect tired cliché upon cliché into a brain fogging monotone, and doesn't furnish me with any applicable tools and/or ideas that I can actually use in my classroom. And for God’s sake, stop buying teachers those costly little books sold by overpriced educational consultants that you hand out like Tic Tacs at the beginning of each and every new school year. We get it already. You know how to read. You like to get up, pace back and forth, and pontificate on and on about the newest little book in an effort to show us how much you know and how dedicated you are to building teamwork. We get a new little book almost every year when the new admins come in (new administrators are like a recurring case of mouth ulcers and teachers are the true witnesses to the relentless and never ending administrator turnover in public schools). Please, use the money you spend on the little books to buy copy paper, textbooks, and pencils. Teachers just throw away those useless little books anyway.

Back to you Dear Reader  There you have it. I just told you that the emperor is wearing no clothes. What are you going to do? To what standards are you going to insist upon and hold your district boards of education accountable when they make administrator hiring decisions? Go for the flash and dash, or go for logic and common sense? Actually research potential candidates or hire based on, "Damn, that suit looks good on him and he has a doctorate, even if it is from the University of Bumfuck"? You roll the dice. But remember who loses if you keep rolling snake eyes.

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