As I was reading Chapter 3 of Diane Ravitch’s The Death and Life of the Great American School System, I experienced mostly negative emotions, ranging from disbelief to anger. Ravitch describes the changes the San Diego school district went through in the late ‘90’s and early ‘00’s. New administrators were brought in that favored a heavy handed top-down approach that placed no value on the experience and buy-in of the teachers and principals. Teachers in the San Diego school district were being treated like the enemy. This kind of treatment just doesn’t make sense to me. I can’t imagine thinking that in order to have success in schools, you must force teachers to comply with your agenda. It must have been a pretty dismal time to work in that school district.
As I’ve been thinking about it, I have been reminded of the way the teachers felt about administrators in “School Work: Gender and the Cultural Construction of Teaching” by Biklen. The teachers in this study felt like their supervisors routinely “underestimated them” and were “out of touch” with what went on in the classroom. I don’t personally know a lot of teachers, but I have heard these sentiments expressed before. I wonder how pervasive this distrust between teachers and administrators is in our school systems?
I’m left thinking about what can be done to change the dynamic of these relationships? We have been talking and thinking a lot about teaching as a “Professional Community” in class. As teaching moves towards this “Professional Community”, hopefully teachers will garner more of the respect we deserve and gain more of a voice in policy decisions.