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?