Disruptive change requires dedicated and skillful school leaders who first take care of themselves

Economic forces across the country over which most individuals have little or no control have taken a disproportionate toll on the welfare of children and public education, often and not surprisingly leaving teachers and administrators feeling increasingly dispirited.

Student’s learning environments and teachers’ working conditions have deteriorated year after year. Many teachers have seen reductions in their salaries and benefits. Politicians blame teacher unions—not their own poorly conceived policies or the number of children who live in poverty—for the problems that ail America’s most challenged schools.

Teachers are told directly and indirectly by many reformers that teaching is not a profession in which teachers grow through a lifetime of practice and collaboration, but rather a short-term job through which idealistic young people can churn every few years on the way to their real careers.

Charter schools, whose effectiveness in improving student learning and spreading innovation to all public schools at best remains unproven, and other market-driven “innovations” drain money from school systems to provide profits to companies that have long sought a larger share of the education marketplace and divert attention and resources from the processes that will truly benefit students.

These disruptive changes require incredibly skillful and dedicated school leaders who believe in the importance of public education and who keep their eyes on the prize of continuously improving teaching and learning for the benefit of all students.

It is essential that these leaders first take care of their own physical and emotional well being so that they can guide members of the school community in taking care of each other. While that is not an easy thing to do in the best of times, I am confident that skillful and committed school and system leaders are up to the task.

What’s on your mind?

  • What have “disruptive changes” affected the emotional and physical well-being of educators?
  • In what ways do you and others in your school community take care of yourselves and each other?

4 Responses to “Disruptive change requires dedicated and skillful school leaders who first take care of themselves”


  1. 1 Chandra Handa, Manoj November 26, 2012 at 4:11 am

    Kind regards
    Manoj

    Manoj Chandra Handa
    Chief Education Officer, School Development Officer
    Northern Sydney Region | NSW Department of Education & Communities
    Level 2, 75 Talavera Road | Macquarie Park NSW 2113
    Office: 9886 7000 Fax: 9886 7070
    Email: manoj.chandrahanda@det.nsw.edu.au

    Life’s aspirations come in the guise of young learners.
    Rabindranath Tagore

  2. 2 Rick Hamrick November 26, 2012 at 3:54 pm

    Appreciate your post this week Dennis. Your concern that unwarranted allegiance to charter schools, public school villification and denigration of PS teachers by far too many of our nation’s business and political leaders is spot-on. Mindless ideological commitment to market-driven education policy has only succeeded in undermining both the strengths of our public schools and the emotional well-being of hundreds of thousands of dedicated educators throughout America.

    While I agree with your call for enlightened school leaders to help teachers cope with the emotional consequences of changing workplace standards and relentless denigration, there also needs to be a call for coordinated opposition to the distortions, lies and ideologically-driven changes being forced upon our communities and schools. What opposition I’ve heard thus far comes from impassioned, yet isolated, voices crying in the wilderness with no collective or organizational strength.

    • 3 Dennis Sparks November 26, 2012 at 4:03 pm

      I agree with your concerns, Rick, about the lack of a coherent, organized response to market-driven policies. Diane Ravitch certainly provides a steady drumbeat of opposition, as do a few others, but the collective response seems to be largely absent, at least here in Michigan.

  3. 4 Pat November 26, 2012 at 10:43 pm

    TAKING CARE OF OURSELVES AS A STAFF “FAMILY” OVER THE YEARS..1.STARTIING THE FIRST DAY WITH A SMALL GIFT GOODIE BAG PERSONALLY FROM THE PRINCIPAL TO EACH STAFF MEMBER,INCLUDING A NOTE OF APPRECIATION, 2. WEEKLY FULL STAFF BREAKFAST BEFORE SCHOOL EVERY WED( EACH STAFF MEMBER HAVING AN OPPORTUNITY TO SIGN UP TO BRING INBAGELS. ROLLS, PASTERIEES) AND ALL SITTING TOGETHER AT A LONG TABLE , JUST TO CHAT AND’BE TOGETHER.3. WHEN MORALE WAS PARTICULARLY LOW FOR A NUMBEROF REASONS, A BEFORE SCHOOL CASUAL GET TOGETHER TO LAUGH AND BE UPLIFTED BY LORETTA LA ROCHE VIDEO TAPES, 4′ FORMING AN DANCERSIZE FACULTY GROUP ONE DAY A WEEK AFTER SCHOOL….THESE ARE JUST A FEW VERY CONCRETE SELF HELP ACTIVITES THAT FOSTERED AN INTERNAL SENSE OF SOCIALIZATION AND COLLEGIALITY 5. OF COURSE, THERE WAS THE ‘SUNSHINE FUND’ WHICH ALL WERE ENCOURAGED TO CONTRIBUTE TO,FOR THE ACKNOWLEMENT OF SIGNIFICANT EVENTS IN COLLEAGUES. LIVES – SUFFOLK COUNTY, NY


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