Advice for Bosses of Rookies

Roxanna Elden is guest-blogging this week for Rick Hess and has two gems (already). In one, she advises school leaders:

4. Lighten up on the data-mining requirements. Maybe there was a time when schools didn't focus enough on collecting data and this was something organizations needed to push on their own. That time has passed. Schools and districts have gotten the memo on the importance of collecting data every second of the day and keeping it in a binder for a constant stream of data-obsessed visitors. The last thing rookies need in November is an additional person pushing investigation of data-driven solutions based on the most recent benchmark assessment.

Instead, they need concrete answers about how to get kids to stop interrupting them with loud, off-topic questions, or what to do with kids who say, "I don't have to pass this class - I'm going to summer school anyway," or whether requesting an aide for an autistic student will make administrators hate them.

Can't agree more: rookies have almost unlimited appetite for concrete, practical solutions.

5. Treat teacher time and energy as finite resources. Programs often play up their recruits' willingness to put in long hours, but at some point it becomes counterproductive to stay up another hour cutting paper pepperoni for the next morning's fraction-pizza lesson. Yes, our nation's most vulnerable kids deserve a teacher who will work tirelessly to close the achievement gap. They also deserve a mentally healthy teacher who wants to be in the room with them and has the emotional reserves to show compassion when they need it. Rookies propping themselves on energy drinks are more likely to commit cringe-worthy, regrettable teaching mistakes.

I keep wanting our teacher prep program to set prescribed bedtimes for these amazing young people who nonetheless used to stay up til 1am in college.

Roxanna also weighs in on technology "for" teachers:

Dear educational technology,

These days, we run into you everywhere. People who say you're just what we need have gone out of their way to introduce you, and are quick to criticize us for not showing more interest. So why aren't we more into you? Well, if you want to win teachers over, you have to understand where we're coming from.

You're not the only one we're seeing. When teachers claim our calendars are full, we're not just playing hard to get. We've probably had several other tech-dates this month, including multiple computer-based reading programs for which we have to herd kids into the school library to use the computers. Each of these probably involves a diagnostic assessment, plus corresponding practice and makeup assessments, each of which requires the library to stay closed for the day, which means kids can't check out any actual books until well into the third month of school, once we've finished assessing why they're not good readers.

We want to know you respect us. Teachers have plenty of experience with products that require two hours of tedious busy work for every hour they "save." During a first impression, we look for signs that innovations in technology are matched by a genuine desire not to waste our time. High-tech isn't always best for this: A 90-minute webcast of an underprepared presenter mumbling through a PowerPoint presentation in another school's auditorium is arguably more insulting than making us sit through a bad presentation in person. If you want to start things off on the right foot, show the same consideration for our needs that you claim your technology does for students.

Read the whole thing, or buy her book.