Year: 1996-1997
Month: April
Leader: Group K

Situation/Case Study:
SYSTEMIC POLICY ISSUE

Description:
The issue of teachers not knowing their next year's assignments in advance results in their feeling very insecure, not highly motivated, and prevents them from spending their summers to better prepare for any change they might have to face, i.e., developing new curriculum, learning about a new school and community, or preparing for a different developmental level. Teachers feel that even when there is a district procedure to follow, that it is not followed and they feel victimized, manipulated, and powerless, rather than being proactive change agents which they prefer. It is hard to maintain loyalty when procedures are not followed and deadlines for informing teachers about their futures are not met. This makes them feel demeaned and unimportant. This can happen to tenured teachers as well with enrollment changes.

Hypotheses:
The district expects teachers to meet deadlines, but they don't have to. If you don't know what you're going to be doing you can't plan for it. Lack of communication breeds frustration, anger, and distrust. The district knows ahead of time what its needs are going to be and so can inform teachers. Lack of concern on the part of district seems like lack of respect for teachers.

Theories behind practice:


Impact on others:
Job security. Power and control issues. The role of the principal. Tenure and what it means.

Solutions:
Be more direct with the appropriate administrators. Work with and through the teacher's association to work for better adherence to pre-determined schedules and deadlines. Collect data; do research on how job notification is done in other districts. Bring in an outsider (college professor or mediator) to assess current practice and recommend changes. Talk to the building administrator to see if s/he can hurry the process. Talk with other staff members so they understand the issues and the concerns.

Comments:
Two issues were discussed in the final summary and debriefing. The first was how important the Principal was to the climate of the building. The Principal interprets and runs interference with central office policy; supports teachers with sympathy, resources, and respect; setting and enforcing standards of behavior among students and teachers and parents; and establishing clear expectations and the support necessary to accomplish them. Most of the group felt that this one individual could make or break a given year. The second issue discussed was how this group functioned over this year. It was felt by all the members that it had been a very helpful and productive experience and one they looked forward to attending. There was a strong sense of support and loyalty and trust. One of the reasons they maintained they were able to be open and honest is that the “administrative” member of the group was also a teacher and therefore they felt they could be completely open and honest with their concerns and discussion without fear of jeopardizing their positions or careers. A number of people said that had there been a principal or other district office administrator as a part of the group, that they would not have participated as whole-heartedly and honestly as they did. It was suggested that administrators get results of the groups’ discussions in such a way as the groups or individuals could not be identified, as the content of the discussions could provide insights into what was happening across the district for future policy decisions. All members present said they hoped the opportunity to participate as part of the existing group would be possible again next year. Because this was the last session and there was some initial sense of we’re at year-end and we’ve been talking all year about our problems, what’s new? I phrased the question to start the discussion “What things get in the way of you being the best possible teacher you are capable of? Therefore, this month’s responses are more wide ranging, but I think interesting as they also represent real problems and issues that teachers have to deal with as a part of their lives as teachers and therefore affect performance.