SOLSC #5  How Did We Let It Get This Far?  

A teacher contacted me last week to ask for my help.   She has been put on an improvement plan by her administrator and feels she is at risk of losing her job due to poor performance.  I am the district ELA specialist so she is hoping I can help her keep her job.  

I am eager to help her and the more I ask her questions to determine how best to help her, the more I am consumed by the thought that we (the components of our system) have completely failed her.  And we have mostly definitely failed all of the students who have passed through her classes.
My district is widely dispersed so I don’t get to spent enough time in each teacher’s classroom. I suppose ‘enough’ is not the right word since I can recall being in her classroom once over the past five years.  And I wasn’t completely shocked when I asked her to look at the standards and identify where she and her students are and she indicated that they had not worked on most of them.  She couldn’t identify one standard that she thought her students would be comfortable with.  I think there are a number of teachers who never look at the standards.
I was taken aback, though, when she indicated that she doesn’t have one instructional strategy nor classroom routine that she thinks is successful.  We’re in March and she seems to have to learn everything about teaching.  She’s been here at least as long as I have (5 years) and I’m wondering how we let this situation get this far.  
More importantly, what do I do now?  She asked for help in creating a unit plan.  I think she’s happy to let me do that for her, but that won’t help her.  I’m wondering which books she should read, who she should follow on Twitter, which blogs she should read.  How do you give someone a crash course in teaching English effectively?  
Yesterday I read Kelly Gallagher’s In the Best Interest of Students and, since we’re getting ready to move to the CCSS, I think that’s a good one.  Well, even if we hadn’t adopted the CCSS, it’s still thought-provoking with practical, try-them-tomorrow ideas.  But she’s made it this far resisting professional development, so will she read?  
What do we need to have in place at the district level to make sure we continuously support the professional development of teachers?  

9 thoughts on “SOLSC #5  How Did We Let It Get This Far?  

  1. spillarke

    Great questions, Lee. It would feel awful if I thought not one instructional routine worked in my room. You remind me that. Support is not enabling. Support is not doing for. It may for a time be doing with–that same scaffold that we use with children, but eventuallu the learner must be willing and able to do on her own. PS, I loved Gallagher’s book too.

    1. Lee Post author

      I am anxious to get to the school to work with her. Like you, I can only imagine how terrible it must feel to not be able to identify one area of success. I feel like if I were there, I’d be able to start with success. Find something to build on.

  2. titang0415

    Hi Lee–I agree with you and Spillarke that Gallagher’s books are great. I wonder if Notice and Note by Beers and Probst would help? Or maybe they’re assuming too much prior skill and knowledge on the teacher’s part? I think it

  3. titang0415

    Ugh-don’t know why that posted in the middle of typing! I think it could help her not only focus on instruction in a very structured way, but would also help her think more about reading and readers. Also, some time spent with you helping her to struggle through backward planning seems like it could be helpful. Good luck to her! She’s in good hands.

    1. Lee Post author

      Thanks, Chris! I started with backward planning and I’ll take Note and Notice to her next time I go over. It’s a great suggestion. :).

  4. Stacey Shubitz

    There’s a fine balance between supporting and enabling. It sounds like you’re doing all of the smart thinking that’s involved with trying to figure out how to support her and build her up without doing too much hand-holding and coddling. Good luck!

  5. readingtothecore

    This is such a challenge, Lee! Four or five years ago, I was asked to help a teacher who was on an improvement plan. She was a veteran teacher, but had been moved to a different grade level and was really struggling. We met regularly to plan, review data, and more, but she ended up leaving in the middle of the year. The resources you’re starting with are good ones, and if she’s willing to do the work, maybe she will be able to turn things around for her and her students. Good luck to you both!

    1. Lee Post author

      It is a bit heartbreaking to find a veteran in this situation. I’ll make it over to her school next week so, hopefully, it will be helpful to her. Thanks for your encouragement!

  6. Beth Scanlon

    Support, support, support…with the new demands here teachers need more support than ever or hand-holding as I describe it even the seasoned teachers…what has been helpful are the functional PLCs where they are really working together to create units and understand standards…teachers shouldn’t leave each other alone….


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