Needed: An EQUITABLE and STABLE Pipeline of Teachers

TOWARDS AN EQUITABLE AND STABLE Pipeline of Teachers in Urban (Detroit) Schools !
by Lorraine Richardson

This Post has been removed because I updated it on January 9, 2015. Please click on the link to read the most recent version. Teacher Equity Where Do We Go from Here

Can These Teachers Be Saved? Case Study Pt. 2

In a previous post, February 12, I described two young teachers who are experiencing emotional challenges in their home life. The principal is considering putting them on what is called the unsatisfactory track which is a prelude to being released. I have been charged with working with them.

A coach’s role is to move teachers from where they are to where they need or want to be. As the keeper of the vision, the coach works with teachers to set goals that will lead to improved student achievement. Though they do not pay me, I consider the teachers to be my clients.

Coaching can sometimes be a lonely journey of faith- there is no single path or recipe. We travel an uncertain terrain, and we juggle an intimidating number of demands.

Coaches empower, collaborate, challenge, confirm, cajole, communicate, flatter, guide, goad, intimidate, listen, model, push, prompt, problem solve, and problem seek. We serve as counselor, friend, compassionate shoulder, and confidante.

A Coach Juggles Too

A Coach Juggles Too

Getting to Know You!
Before coaches can determine how fast and how far teachers can be coached, my practice is to get to know them first.

I don’t care how much you know, until I know how much you care. Mother Teresa

Information Gathering Guide:
Age Range of the Teacher – A Guess: Under 30? over 30? over 40? etc

Experience in other schools/district

Content areas and grade levels taught

Certification: Lack of certification, alternative certification , career path change, Teach for America

Credentials- Degrees

Average years of service

Hobbies/Outside interests

Life Issues/Challenges: What is going on inside of the teacher’s head and heart: marriage, divorce, family, children, health, second job, death in the family, working on advanced degree, other?

The Foundational Goals I use to begin to coach the teachers in listed on my insights page of this blog.

Coaching Goals:

1. I will work to build a shared system of responsibility.

Collaborate/Challenge: I pair Amina and Carrie with one another and a veteran teacher in the same dept who will spend a few minutes chatting with them each day. In return the teacher will represent the school at a university professional development seminar for teachers during the summer. The veteran teacher will answer questions about classroom managetment and lesson planning. The department chairman will spend five minutes daily in each teacher’s classroom for the next couple of months just to let the students know that some one in a position of authority has the teacher’s back. And to make sure Amina and Carrie are on task, I will do the same. Philosophy: I care; I’m concerned; I’m curious.

2. I work to identify areas of strength (assets, gifts, talents) for teachers to share with one another

Empower/Flatter: Since both teachers are new, they are up-to-date on the pedagogy of teaching the writing process. I recommend that the department chair encourage them to collaborate on a brief presentation for a departmental meeting. I want Amina and Carrie to feel that they belong and that they matter.

3. I will identify areas for growth to enhance teachers’ career longevity

Challenge/Goal I inform them that they need to begin by improving their attendance and not allowing students to know what’s going on in their personal lives because doing so detracts from their credibility. No more crying in front of students or showing up late. No more sitting repeatedly at their desks day after day which communicates a nonverbal: “Do not disturb” to students. An effective teacher teaches on her feet and not from her seat. I threaten them with the specter of unemployment

4. I will work to assist teachers to move past their current level of performance.

Problem Solve/Problem Seek: Both are weak in classroom management-sending students to the office EACH day. We start by examining their syllabus which, in part, is supposed to outline their philosophy for classroom management. I remind them that an effective teacher is firm, fair, consistent and persistent-sometimes needing an iron will. Both agree. I suggest they review the syllabus regularly with students until it is internalized. We discuss the difference between deviant behavior and normal developmental behavior as well as the consequences for each.

Student Misbehavior

Teachers are responsible for student behavior.

5. I will assist teachers as they reflect on and articulate reasons for their actions.

After a couple of SCHEDULED observations, I meet with the teachers individually. My process: “Close your eyes and describe the lesson you taught; What were your goals? Did the lesson go as you planned? Why or why not? How do you plan to correct or reinforce your actions?” Amina and Carrie both become aware of their shortcomings without my having to tell them. Both are weak at introducing the lesson which leads to confusion on the part of students and frustration on the part of the teachers. They realize that they are not getting through to them. I start each with brainstorming ways to bridge/link new knowledge to past experiences/knowledge of their students (population). I inform each that I will ask the department chair to monitor only the introductory portion of their lesson plans for the next month. I will drop in to see how they are doing.

6. I will work to increase teacher efficacy (belief that one’s actions can make a difference)

Listen/Strategize Amina and Carrie both appear to have faith in their ability to teach inner-city students; however, their personal lives are interfering with their emotional and physical stamina to do the job. I point that out to them that teaching in urban schools requires a resiliency that may not be necessary in a private or suburban school environment. We identify bonding/relationship building strategies that are teacher-to-student, student-to-teacher and student-to-student that will better secure students’ cooperation. And to secure Carrie and Amina’s ability to make a difference.

7. I will identify challenges that might interfere with a positive teaching experience.

Again, because their personal lives are spilling over into the classroom, we discuss support systems: family, friends, church, organizations, social outlets. Is there anyplace in their lives where they are having fun?

8. I will identify potential conflicts and ethical dilemmas.

I start by asking them how much they need the income from teaching. Both would be economically devastated w/o the income. I remind them that the taxpayers are spending over $7,000 annually to educate each student. That is how their salary is derived. When they don’t show up or merely sit at their desks day after day and only provide busy work to students, they are in essence taking money under false pretenses. I warn both that this behavior is ethically indefensible. I also warn both that they are in danger of being rated unsatisfactory. I assure them that at this point I am NOT sharing what I am learning about them with the administration; however, that could change if they don’t. Amina and Carrie seem contrite.

Moral Crossroads

I know that this process seems arduous and time consuming; however, Amina and Carrie are both intelligent women who invested enormous amounts of time, effort, and money to become teachers. And thousands of dollars of tax payer money is lost each time a teacher abandons the field or is pushed out the door. That doesn’t include the emotional toil on students who must adjust to a new teacher. Is it easier to merely force Amina and Carrie out or to invest in them?

In my next blog post, I will share the outcomes for both teachers.

Can These Teachers Be Saved? A Coach’s Journey Pt. !

When I came of age as a teacher, for women who entered the field, teaching was a first career choice. Generally, we were not single parents with children. Other than juggling the responsibilities of teaching our students, our outside the school house juggling acts included hanging out with friends or a significant other, going to the club, shopping, attending a movie or concert, traveling. Having escaped our parents’ watchful eyes and having graduated from college, we could EXHALE

New teachers who were married were on a different path: perhaps putting a spouse though medical or law school, saving money for a down payment on a home. When children came along some stayed home or took time off until they were in school. Even those who returned to teaching after a maternity leave looked forward to the scheduled time off.  In reality, many women opted for the teaching profession because the school calendar/schedule enabled us to navigate a family and to earn an income. By the time life’s BIG CHALLENGES came along, most of us had mastered teaching the content and fine tuned our classroom management strategies. 
Not the case with Amina and Carrie who entered the field as 30  something women, the primary economic heads of their households, coping with failed relationships and child(ren).

A  young high school teacher bursts into my office emotionally distraught. Recently married and with a young daughter who is not her husband’s child, she shares with me that she feels as if she is being torn between two competing forces. Her daughter is needy because for most of her young life they have been a duo. She resents having to share her mother’s attention with the husband. The new husband feels as if he should be first in his wife’s life. That’s what the Bible says.  Every night Amina is caught up in a tug of war which prevents her from proper

How Much More Can I Juggle?

How Much More Can I Juggle?


The chair of the department has requested that I work with Carrie,  a young, 1st year teacher who is experiencing classroom management difficulties. Her attendance is poor and her lesson plans when she turns them in are incomplete.

After chatting with the teacher informally on several occasions, I learn that she is in the process of divorcing her husband. Carrie is leaving an interracial marriage with two children. Her husband doesn’t want to divorce; her parents never approved of the union. Every evening is a steady stream/barrage  of phone calls, unexpected knocks at the door, meal preparation,  homework monitoring. Of course,  lesson planning and assessing papers are  an afterthought.  Each day is a struggle to get up, get the children off to school and get to work. Carrie  is emotionally and physically spent by the time she arrives in front of her classroom door to greet her students. Daily, she hides behind her desk which nonverbally communicates to students: Do not disturb.

Coaching Challenge: Can These Teachers Be Saved?

Eventually, I am called to the office by the principal who is concerned about both teachers and wants to know what I am doing about the situation. Naturally, she is worried about the school’s test scores because both teachers teach in content areas that are tested. Priestlike in my demeanor, I DO NOT divulge any information about the two teachers’ personal lives or their weaknesses as teachers. However, because they send so many students to the office and their department chair has reported to her the state of their lesson plans, she is aware. She informs me that she is considering placing both teachers on the unsatisfactory track which is the prelude to being released.

  Historically, American schools have been the least successful educating a population living in poverty, a population often parented by the chronically unemployed, or underemployed, or chemically dependent. We call such a population at-risk. We are well aware of the adversities they face daily and our moral responsibility to try to overcome them
However, some of our teachers go through periods of living on an emotional roller coaster in their personal lives too. What is our responsibility to them?     What is my responsibility to Amina and Carrie vs. my responsibility to their students? Can they be reconciled? Can these teachers be saved? Should they be? Should I recommend to the principal that they be placed on the unsatisfactory track? Once she decides on that option, all confidentiality goes out the window because the principal becomes my client. I am obligated to report to her all that I know so that she can build a case against them. As professionals, how much of a responsibility do we have to one another? As humans, how much of a stake do we have in one another? What would you do?

A Coach’s Journey

Which Path Should I Take?

Which Path Should I Take?