My apologies for taking so long to write this summation up. I went to the MNPS State of Schools this morning and it’s taken this long to glue my head back together from its repeated explosions. I’m not going to go to in depth on things, obviously I have several issues, but I do want to touch on one thing. This is something Maplewood teacher Jarred Amato would never say, but I’m going to say it. If the district is going to reap PR rewards off of his tireless and selfless work, then it’s time they start footing part of the bill. Up until now the majority of the resources for ProjectLit have come out of Amato’s pocket and that should not be ignored. My biggest criticism of Director of Schools Shawn Joseph is that he often presents the hard work of others as being representative of his own. I can name half a dozen other iniatives over the past 6 months that have served the same purpose. That more than anything else needs to stop. By not acknowledging that Amato’s work is, by in large, a by product of his own initiative and sacrifice Joseph shortchanges the amazing work being done. A high quality leader gives credit, and support, to his troops. He doesn’t use their success stories to fuel his own narative.

I’m stepping down from the pulpit now to review this weekends poll results. The first question was on how teachers deal with the ever increasing amount of stress they are faced with daily. If responses  are to be believed, I need to invest in a vineyard. It was heartening to see that running slightly ahead of fermented and aged grapes, was the answer “I find strength in my work and the children’s lives I touch.” This question was asked a little tongue in cheek, but the subject of teacher stress is a very serious, and not a bit funny, subject. We really need, as a collective, to find a way to make the profession a whole lot less stressful. I don’t buy for one minute the argument that the current level of stress felt is “just part of the gig.”

Question 2 on what principals need to do to improve brought the most write-in votes we’ve ever recieved. Here’s all of them:

Appreciating and respecting their faculty. 
Saying “no” to district 
Situational Leadership 
Setting high standards for student behavior. 
Community involvement 
collaboration – they have to share decision making with their faculty 
Compassion for kids and staff combined with high expectations 
Protecting what little autonomy that remains 
Being smarter 
Personnel skills 
Hire qualified principals in the first place? 
Not micro managing, not creating drama 
Standing up against bad policy

Some great ideas in there and I appreciate you taking the time to write them out. Overall the number one answer was to become better communicators. That included both talking and listening.

On the last question, in regard to the new MNPS ES report cards, 44% found them useless. I have to admit that I took secret pleasure in the fact that the number 2 answer was, “I don’t look at it that closely, so I don’t have an opinion.” There was one “other” response that resonated with me as well, “Standards based grading is less useful. Reduces courses to “badges” to earn.” I am going to have to think on that one for a bit, but on the surface, I have to agree. I do think it is absolutely ridiculous that an ES report card comes home with no place for comments by teachers. And don’t tell me about those “canned responses” that are available. My children are on track with every standard so every column has a “2” in it. BUt what does that mean? What is their day like? Are the inquisitive or reluctant? Serious or playful? Do they interact well with the other kids or are they spending alot of time alone? Those are the things that I need to know more then are they on pace to master the standards.  My children’s teachers run neck and neck with mom and dad in the love department in the eyes of my children. That alone makes it imprtant for me to know their thoughts.

That does it for the poll results. Look for a piece focusing on the importance of extracuricular activies and social networks later this evening. I promise that I’ll have a podcast out in next couple of days focusing on Rahm Emanuel, vouchers in Memphis, the State of MNPS speech, and lots more. Friday we’ll have more poll questions.  Somebody asked me this weekend why I started doing the polls. Purely and simply, I believe your opinions are only good if you are constantly vetting them. I am so grateful for the many educators, locally and nationally, that take the time to help me vet my thoughts. Asking poll questions is just one more method to learn more and after all isn’t learning at the root of it all? Have a great week.

Categories: Uncategorized

1 reply

  1. “A high quality leader gives credit, and support, to his troops. He doesn’t use their success stories to fuel his own narrative.”

    So true. Please keep the conversation going. This is happening in every cluster. I know dedicated teachers like Jarred Amato are not doing the hard work for praise, but because they care deeply about kids. The fact that they have to foot the bill (or raise money) themselves for such incredible initiatives like Project Lit is absurd and depressing.

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