Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Five Things Schools Must Do To Avoid Extinction

As schools slowly verge towards the same fate as newspapers and bank tellers, we must step away from the precipice of extinction by doing the following:

1. Stop banning ipods/cell phones from school classrooms. If it's not a test, then we should embrace these technologies in our classrooms. Every time I walk by a class with NO iPODS/NO CELLPHONES hung by the door, I feel another nail in public education's coffin hammered home. Do we embrace this technology, connect with our students and allow them to use what they naturally use, or do we simply go on as our students turn away from us in droves? Yes, banning phones is easy, teaching appropriate use is hard. Which will payoff in your class room? Will your students continue to sneak texts and consider you a fossil, or do you project a text back channel with your lesson for all to see?

2. Stop blocking/banning Internet use. This does NOT stop students, and it causes huge problems for teachers who want to engage their students with the social networks. How many of you went out on the web to find social or free web ware to find it was blocked? How many of you can not access YouTube? iTunes? We are shooting ourselves in the foot as we are unable to even try the new technologies out there. Our students can easily get around blocked websites; they network and find back doors while teachers founder on the rocky shores of Internet ignorance. We can not let short sighted administrators take the easy path of ban/block. Instead, we must take the time to teach appropriate use. Once again we are killing our profession with these policies.

3. Teachers must start to police their own ranks. We must wrest the power of teacher termination from administration and use it ourselves. When we let administration do the dirty work for us, we become less than professionals and lose the respect of parents. When we hide our worst behind tenure, what message do we send to the public about who we really care about? Doctors and lawyers remove the worst from their ranks and get the respect they deserve. Unions must bargain for this right to cull our own ranks. You can easily count on your hand at least five teachers you've met over the years who should not be teaching. What the hell are they still doing teaching? What the hell are we doing by letting them teach?

4. Merit pay for schools, not teachers. Competition for merit pay for individual teachers will create frustration, jealousy, fighting with counselors & administrators. Merit pay for schools will enhance cooperation, connectivity, collaboration and the removal of teachers who can't cut it (see #3). Obama got merit pay partly right, but schools are communities, we need to help them grow as organizations, not as sealed off individuals who never see each other, never collaborate, & never know the names of half the teachers in their building. Give merit pay to schools who show improvement and watch teaching become a collaborative art instead of an isolated, fragmented vaudeville show where no act has anything to do with any other act.

5. Teachers must take a performing arts/ drama class at some time in their careers. We can not stand before our students and expect them to sit there if we can not deliver a message in a meaningful way. Monotoned, sessile teachers deactivate the reticular activating systems in our students brainstems and literally put them to sleep. I never heard a group of people complain about a boring inservice as much as teachers, yet we do this to our students daily. Ask your students; they know who teaches and who speeches. Buy these pedagogues a clue and get them to some kind of class where they can hone these skills. Yes, they are performance skills, we can all learn them with practice.


  1. Wow! An inspiring, no-nonsense vision of education Kelly!

    Well said.

  2. I agree with 1 & 2 fully. 3 I also can live with, even as a "Union" president, as long as it was a prossess that includes coaching and help before the ax. 4 same thing but most don't get it right or understand the concerns. I love 5

  3. These are 5 excellent and inspiring ideas. I particularly think #3 is vital. It's frustrating to work with those who clearly don't like students and have to hope the administration figures it out. I agree that merit pay would be divisive and destructive to education. Excellent teachers are not motivated by money. And they don't always teach science, math, English, or social studies (the subjects that are most often tested and therefore most likely to lead to bonus pay).

  4. We already do #1 & 2... so should everyone. Can we add #6 Focus on differentiated instruction, create individual learning plans and get rid of artificial "grade" structures.

  5. You are right. Teachers must learn to be good good actors and storytellers who will create a meaningful lesson. Some teachers miss many teachable moments.