Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Teachers Sometimes Get A Bad Rap In The Education Debate

A few months ago, I mentioned W. Edwards Deming in a post about the travails of the Cleveland police department.  My purpose in establishing a connection between the two was to highlight the need for systems thinking in problem solving.  Deming, who was a well known statistician and quality guru in the 1950s, was credited with being the inspiration for “post war economic miracle in Japan, which was the 10 year period from 1950 to 1960 when Japan rose from the ashes to become the second most powerful economy in the world”. (Wikipedia)

In his book, Out of the Crisis, Deming laid out his now famous 14 points for management.  I’ve listed them all below, but it’s number 3 and number 5 that were called to mind when I read a Washington Post article by a teacher who just recently hung it up. I’ve posted the article in its entirety below as well:

Deming 14 Points for Management:

1. Create constancy of purpose toward improvement of product and service, with the aim to become competitive and to stay in business, and to provide jobs.

2. Adopt the new philosophy. We are in a new economic age. Western management must awaken to the challenge, must learn their responsibilities, and take on leadership for change.

3. Cease dependence on inspection to achieve quality. Eliminate the need for inspection on a mass basis by building quality into the product in the first place.

4. End the practice of awarding business on the basis of price tag. Instead, minimize total cost. Move toward a single supplier for any one item, on a long-term relationship of loyalty and trust.

5. Improve constantly and forever the system of production and service, to improve quality and productivity, and thus constantly decrease costs.

6. Institute training on the job.

7. Institute leadership (see Point 12 and Ch. 8). The aim of supervision should be to help people and machines and gadgets to do a better job. Supervision of management is in need of overhaul, as well as supervision of production workers.

8. Drive out fear, so that everyone may work effectively for the company (see Ch. 3).

9. Break down barriers between departments. People in research, design, sales, and production must work as a team, to foresee problems of production and in use that may be encountered with the product or service.

10. Eliminate slogans, exhortations, and targets for the work force asking for zero defects and new levels of productivity. Such exhortations only create adversarial relationships, as the bulk of the causes of low quality and low productivity belong to the system and thus lie beyond the power of the work force. Eliminate work standards (quotas) on the factory floor. Substitute leadership. Eliminate management by objective. Eliminate management by numbers, numerical goals. Substitute leadership.

11. Remove barriers that rob the hourly worker of his right to pride of workmanship. The responsibility of supervisors must be changed from sheer numbers to quality.

12. Remove barriers that rob people in management and in engineering of their right to pride of workmanship. This means, inter alia, abolishment of the annual or merit rating and of management by objective (see Ch. 3).

13. Institute a vigorous program of education and self-improvement.

14. Put everybody in the company to work to accomplish the transformation. The transformation is everybody's job.

Washington Post Article

Why I Quit Teaching
by Jan Sidebotham

"I was a teacher for 30 years, except for one five-year hiatus. This year I left the profession. The short explanation is that I was burned out. I arrived at school at 7:45 every morning, I rarely left before 5:30 p.m. and I was often there later. As a new school year gets rolling, I offer two lists. Keep in mind that these are drawn from my experience in private schools, which are regarded as an ideal place to teach because of their small class sizes. 

What people think teachers do:

-Teach five classes or so. 

-Prepare lessons. 

-Create assessments such as quizzes, tests and other assignments. 

-Grade assessments. 

-Take long vacations. 

What teachers do: 

-Teach five classes or so — which is like doing five performances every day in which you stand up in front of 15 people and entertain them for an hour. Or it's like being a pitcher in a game. You are always part of the play. 

-Prepare lessons. Research. Reread a chapter of, say, "The Scarlet Letter" and an article about Puritan culture, prepare discussion questions, plan an activity, figure out how to pace the class. To keep students' interest, you need to shift gears. 

-Create assessments. Write up the assignment, create a rubric, draft detailed instructions. Quizzes should be fair to everyone but also test whether students have done the work. A good five-question multiple-choice quiz can take 45 minutes to an hour to create. 

-Grade assessments. One essay for a class of 15 means reading some 60 pages of student-written work, writing and editing comments, and making a judgment about each grade, all while wondering: Is this fair? Did the student improve? Did he or she really read the book? Will the parents complain? Am I expecting too much? Am I expecting too little? Some teachers read papers three times. 

-Email with colleagues. Answer an email asking why you gave two quizzes in a week. Send an email expressing concern about a student's sudden, dramatic weight loss. 

-Email with parents. This often involves calculating updated course averages, because parents want to know what they want to know when they want to know it. Sometimes it means untangling a misunderstanding. No, your son's iPad use was not appropriate for class. He was not taking notes. He was playing a game. I did not take it away from him for no reason. Don't take things personally. Sometimes you get to write a thank-you for a parent's kind words about how you've helped his or her child.   

-Stay up to date on your material. Read secondary sources on the books you're teaching, read about teaching techniques and so on. 

-Respond to a student crying in the bathroom. Hunt down the student's counselor. 

-Write a college recommendation. Go back through your grade books and papers. Check the school's website to see if the student was the captain of the soccer team. Send an email to find out more about her role in the choral group. Make it unique.

-Chaperone a dance. -Chaperone a camping trip. And like it. 

-Attend a game.

-Attend the school play. 

-Attend the school concert. 

-Attend faculty meetings. 

-Perform at back-to-school night. Prepare what you'll say to parents; write, print and photocopy handouts. Get your clothes dry-cleaned, if you can afford it. Shine your shoes. 

-Learn a new grading input program (about once every two years). 

-Learn a new program for posting homework, which will inevitably be counterintuitive to operate and have numerous glitches that you have to figure out how to deal with. -Calculate grades and drop the lowest quiz. Make sure it's accurate. 

-Write comments for each student. Sixty students, at a third of a page each, comes to 20 pages of tactful evaluation. Reread these for unintended messages. Include something that shows you really know the child. Proofread, proofread, proofread. 

-Write exams. Come up with 12 pages of questions that are not too hard and not too easy, plus an essay question that will help them show what they know without freaking them out. 

-Grade exams. (Ugh.) This is usually done during vacations. 

-Be compassionate, rigorous, interesting, funny, smart, innovative, experienced and patient. 

-And don't be defensive about it, but fend off a stream of snarky remarks about your summer vacation."

Jan Sidebotham has taught English in private schools in the District of Columbia, Maryland and Massachusetts.

I’ve posted several times on this site stories about how bad I believe our system of education is and how self serving those in charge seem to be.  What has gone unsaid is that there are lots of Jan Sidebothams out there, even in the public schools, who take their jobs very seriously but are nonetheless stuck in the system.  To her credit, Ms. Sidebotham quit and left, most probably with her apparently high quality reputation intact.

Unfortunately, the system, with all its glaring flaws, also produces and harbors teachers of the opposite ilk of Ms. Sidebotham - those who don’t take their responsibilities anywhere near as seriously as she did.  How do I know that to be true?  Because it must be.  If the system was full of nothing but teachers like her, the results would bear that out.  And there wouldn’t be a place in the system for the kind of teacher who, unlike Ms. Sidebotham, would “quit and stay”.

Back to Deming’s points 3 and 5.  What if we could convince our so called leaders to work more on building quality in than in designing tests (mass inspections at the end of the production process) that largely affirm the existence of flaws in that process.

And what if the mantra of the education establishment in our country was similar to Deming’s point number 5?  Charter schools, vouchers, and who knows what else would be in play.  Innovation would be encouraged rather than treated as public (union) enemy number 1.

When I look back on my own primary and secondary educations, I have to conclude that my experience was replete with exposure to the Jan Sidebothams of the world.  So my hat goes off to them (Ms Bradshaw, Ms. Powell, Ms. Smith and Ms. Prince, Ms. Boyd, Ms. Bell, Ms. Belay, Ms. Lamback, Ms. Harrison, Ms. Sistrunk, Mr. Westafer, Ms. Walden, Ms. Mahaffie, Mr. Miller)

But my heart goes out to those forced to settle for something less because, as near as I can tell, the negative effects are powerful and long lasting.


No comments:

Post a Comment