Just a quick one to try and get back into the practice of writing down my ideas.
We are at the start of the year and this time always has the requisite paperwork including the creation of Annual Learning Plans. This year it looks like our board is going to be a bit more strict about making sure that all teachers create a plan. While I applaud the idea of having expectations for employees, I do wonder a bit about a mandated plan.
I mean what is the point of forcing a person to make a plan if they are not professional enough to want to make one. I know that sounds drastic but it is absolutely true. We have to stop saying that we are professionals without actually looking at what the word means. To be a professional is to be reflective, discerning, self critical and to be constantly looking to improve. This should be the essence of every plan that we have for our learning and by default, for the learning of our students.
Now some will roll their eyes and talk about the format of the plan, or the idea of having to report on your own plan, or the most misplaced statement of all time: teacher autonomy. Who ever said that a teacher (in a publicly funded school system) has autonomy! And why on Earth would you want autonomy. That word has always meant to me that you are on your own. I don’t want my profession to be autonomous at all. It has to depend on all parties in the school and the board working together and being dependent on each other. The stakes are too important to leave it to individuals. We have the toughest job and I feel the most important job on the planet and to do it right, we need all hands on deck!1
Now I can hear the critics formulating their responses right now. “I don’t need some career hungry principal wasting my time with forms and reports.” “My professional judgement should be honoured at all costs.” Both statements are true and ridiculous at the same time. In regards to the “career hungry principal” you are right and I detest nothing more than paperwork or reports for the sake of reports. When I do Teacher Performance Appraisals I make one things clear: don’t do anything for me that you wouldn’t normally do. I hate it when I get a three page, perfectly typed, formal lesson plan from a teacher and I know that they spent hours putting this together just for me. That means that they spent less time on the kids and more on the report. Waste of time! But the act of taking some time to reflect on your learning goals and making a plan to achieve them has great value and worth.
And about the “professional judgement” thing: I agree that ALL educators professional judgement should be honoured but I never agreed to give mine up when I became a principal! I like to think that my professional outlook could help to compliment that of my teachers. This is why it is important to share your professional learning plan. Don’t just write it down and seal it in an envelope. Share it with colleagues and others that can add to it and possibly help you to realize it. Who knows, it may even evolve and become something more than you could have ever come up with on your own.
I guess that was not too short, but it feels good to be writing again. More to come soon I hope.