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Youngstown OhioA Handbook for Teacher Leaders
Published: 09 September, 2002
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Author: Leonard O. Pellicer
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Youngstown Ohio A Classic Example of Eduspeak

A Handbook for Teacher Leaders gives an excellent example of the common practice of making compelling arguments for changes in schools, with no realistic suggestions for how to achieve the change. The authors' twist is to make an argument not for reform of schools, not for restructuring schools, but for "school renewal" - which is a change "within people" (p 206). Change, they say, cannot occur unless it does not come from external authority, but from "internal obligation" (p 215), which is eduspeak for "teachers volunteer their time".

The authors tell us that in order for school renewal to occur,"school leaders must be prepared to shift a major portion of the responsibility for leadership from principals to teachers" (p 14). Some of the many responsibilities they suggest teachers willingly accept are: peer coaching(p 168), peer review of teacher plans(p 83), spending signifigant amounts of planning time with team members (p 41), to design and implement a series of curriculum seminars (p 61), engaging in a curriculum audit (p 62),fundraising (p 67), and act as mentors for less experienced teachers (p 194). These are all excellent ideas, compellingly argued for and the benefits of their implementation is clear. They also, in aggregate, would require hundreds of hours of additional work from every teacher. So, where will these hundreds of hours come from?

The authors concede that many CURRENT teacher responsibilities such as planning time and curriculum work "come out of the teachers hides" (p 67). They recognize that most teachers are already so overworked during the school day that "when they plan (as all must do), they do so on their own time" (p 72). So, if teachers are ALREADY donating their own time to teaching and planning, where will the time to implement all of the above programs come from? Teachers, the authors seem to say, should donate the time. Teachers need to begin to think of themselves as professionals,(p 209)(apparently it is a given that teachers don't currently see themselves as professionals), and professionals take responsibility that goes beyond pecuniary gain (p 214). So, we can conclude, I suppose, that it is unprofessional and irresponsible for teachers to expect pecuniary gain for their time. And "responsibility adds words such as moral, trustworthy and rational" (p 215). Does this mean teachers who insist on being paid for their work are also immoral?

To be fair, the authors do weakly suggest that money to pay for their ideas could be collected by teachers writing and receiving grants. But the reforms they call for involve huge amounts of time from virtually EVERY teacher, year in and year out. Do they really believe that teachers can be paid for this time by writing grants? The only other suggestion for making the time appears to be to take it from students when they say: "Until policy changes are made in the amount of time allocated to schooling, however, there is really only one option: Educators need to reduce what they expect students to learn and focus on the essentials" (p 55). Somehow, in their call for school renewal, the authors seem to have forgotten why schools exist. Are they really suggesting that, in order to make time for improving schools, we reduce the amount that we teach students?

This book, like so many before it, makes a very compelling argument for the need for change in schools. But, like so many other proposals that have come and gone, the changes called for will require a substantial increase in the amount of time teachers are at work, with no substantive proposal for how to compensate them for this additional time.

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