Are administrators concerned about teachers that step outside the box?

Discussion in 'General Education' started by Doug_HSTeach_07, Jan 13, 2009.

  1. Doug_HSTeach_07

    Doug_HSTeach_07 Comrade

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    Jan 13, 2009

    I consider myself a teacher that steps outside of the box. I am always searching for any possible additions, activities, trips, or extra things that would benefit my students.

    However, recently I submitted a proposal to my principal about traveling to Europe in summer 2010. He asked me all kinds of questions (which he should) but then told me a bunch of horror stories about trips and told me "don't get me fired for this." I realize he has a right to be concerned and he's in his first year. But I am taking careful steps to plan the trip and I feel like he's trying to discourage me already.

    I also signed my students up for the Euro Challenge, a competition that will take place in Chicago (250 miles from my town) in March. Again it seemed like a red flag went up; I have to get school board approval since the trip is over 100 miles.

    Is this why some teachers don't bother to do extra things? Because of all the red tape and paperwork involved? For both of these ventures I am required to submit a lengthy form that includes minute-by-minute details on what we will be doing. Especially for the Chicago trip, I'm somewhat surprised- I figured it was a competition that you filled out a field trip request for, but apparently not.

    So what do you think- are administrators wary of teachers that are not content to do "normal" things?
     
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  3. Jem

    Jem Aficionado

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    In my experiences, there are very few administrators that value big thinking in teachers. Apparently there are a lot of teachers on these boards with fantastic principals, and that's awesome. But most of my principals want teachers who teach to the textbooks and keep their heads down. I had one principal tell me not to 'rock the boat' when I tried to do some creative science, and my last principal got me fired because of reading workshop (wow-what a rebel I am).

    So, yeah. It's very difficult to implement big ideas in a school. One of the reasons I'm looking outside the schools to use my creativity again, with positive encouragement and validation.
     
  4. Peachyness

    Peachyness Virtuoso

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    Well, in my experience, my answer is yes, admins do not like it when we do things outside of the box. But, that may be because I have worked at schools that are title one, improvement schools.

    Along with Jem, I also had problems with my P when I did not follow our reading program word for word. What is it with Ps and readers and writers workshop????
     
  5. Mrs. K.

    Mrs. K. Enthusiast

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    The sad reality is that we live in a litigious society, and administrators are leery of anything that could potentially cause a parent to bring legal action against a school. I wanted to do a London and Paris trip this spring break, but since I can't promote it at school, it's difficult to get enough kids to make it worthwhile, so it's a no go. My P is adamant that any trips are kept well outside of school. And the reality is, things do happen. A few years ago a couple of my colleagues took a group to London, and one particularly airheaded young lady managed to get herself separated from the group - she didn't step onto the train quickly and got left behind. Then, instead of staying put as she had been told, she got on the next train! The kid had absolutely no clue where she was going. You can imagine the panic - the teachers had all of the transit police looking for her, and it was pure luck that my colleague spotted her. Then, on top of it, the girl had managed to lose all of her spending money for the week - about $400.

    On the one trip I took, one of my students ditched her friends the last night to hang out with some punks. It was midnight, we were leaving at 6 the next morning, and I thought my head was going to explode. Fortunately, she turned up, but man...you're responsible, and you start thinking about having to make a phone call to a parent - it's no fun!

    That being said, I also try to think outside the box - I just do most of it inside my classroom. :)
     
  6. DallasTeacher

    DallasTeacher Companion

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    Jan 13, 2009

    Our district had someone killed last year. I don't remember all the details, but they were on a band trip to Austin. Late at night, a young man left his hotel room and eventually ran across a freeway where he was promptly hit by a car. Of course, the district is being sued.
     
  7. KinderCowgirl

    KinderCowgirl Phenom

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    It's so hypocritical. Administrators I have had in the past will talk in meetings about being creative and innovative in lesson designs, but when it comes down to actually going along with these things, they don't want to "rock the boat".

    I think those opportunities would be wonderful for your kids-you can't learn some things from books, but actually have to experience them. We aren't even allowed to go to the rodeo on field trips anymore because 5 years ago a bull got loose and even though no one got hurt parent complained it was unsafe. I think it's a shame-kids can get hurt falling off the monkey bars or tripping with a pencil in their hand. I hope you don't let the extra hoops they are making you jump through stop you from your plans.
     
  8. Blue

    Blue Aficionado

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    Jan 13, 2009

    Liability.
     
  9. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    I think your administrator has more of an eye on the big picture.

    Since 9/11, it has become less and less common for schools to offer trips outside a very tight radius. Not just here in NY, but across the country. Parents are more and more concerned about letting the kids travel that far with a school.

    Also, finances are still tight. Ye don't alwasys know how many of our parents are out of work, or holding on by their fingernails. I know I've given you this lecture before, so I'll leave it at that.

    I've chapereoned a LOT in my 23 years of teaching. Some trips went wonderfully. But I have dealt with:

    - a broken leg (at Speech & Debate nationals in Chicago-- the kid tripped on her way into the school)

    - a fractured rib/ collapsed lung on a ski trip

    - a guy who tried to pick up our girls in Picadilly Circus in London. Had I not come up behind the girls at an opportune moment, it could have been a problem.

    - same trip to London, a kid lost her passport the DAY BEFORE we were due to leave. So one of the chaperones spent the last day at the US Embassy. Thankfully it was before 9/11, and we had copies of all the kids' passport numbers, so it was fixable.

    - a stomach bug that grounded about 5 or 6 girls, at different times, in Paris. I didn't see nearly as much of Paris as I would have liked, since I had to take my turn babysitting in the hotel. Fortunately, it didn't require a doctor's care, since none of the chaperones spoke French.

    - we went to the Candadian side of Niagara Falls on a Speech & Debate trip to Buffalo. On our return, one of the kids admitted to the Immigration agent that the wasn't a US citizen and had forgotten his green card-- it was home on Long Island. He was promptly pulled off the bus. His coach spent a good 45 minutes trying to untangle that mess. Again, prior to 9/11, so fixable.

    And I've been lucky. I wasn't the Speech coach whose 14 year old freshman suffered alcohol poisining so severe she was taken out of the hotel by ambulance. I wasn't on the cross country trip my husband's school offered where there was a car accident and two teachers died (in Arizona I think.) In addition to the actual crisis and 14 understandably upset teens, they had to deal with all the nitty gritty issues surrounding the crash and getting the bodies back to NY.

    This isn't about big bad adminitrators subjugating the poor innocent teacher. This is about an adminstator who is concerned that a young teacher may be taking on a huge responsiblity, and about the potential liability for both the teacher and the district.

    As a teacher in a private school, I don't have a lot of layers of administration to go through. Yet in my experience, there is no such thing as a field trip for which you fill out a form. In all my years of coaching Speech and Debate, each and every trip to States or Nationals involved a at least a conversation or two with the principal, permission slips, and discussion of costs to the kids, costs to the school, transportation, and a host of other issues. And that's in a Catholic school-- no Superintendent or School board to consider.

    There are lots and lots of ways to think outside the box and be an incredible history teacher. The overwhelming majority of them don't involve travel.
     
  10. lemonhead

    lemonhead Aficionado

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    Not unless you go outside of the outer box. But still, I know my P is a big thinker and my team will come up with great ideas and sometimes he shoots them down only because he thinks of something we haven't. We don't argue because he's right, usually.

    What I think is sad is the uniformity or normality that we all must have so that everything is fair for every class. (At my school)
     
  11. lemonhead

    lemonhead Aficionado

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    Yikes!! Alice had some horror stories! He really needs you to think about it and the liability. You just never know. Doing all the due diligence and jumping through the hoops will help you cover your posterior, for the most part, if this is indeed something that goes through.
     
  12. Doug_HSTeach_07

    Doug_HSTeach_07 Comrade

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    I really hope it didn't make it sound like, as one poster said, "innocent teacher vs. big bad administrator." I feel like admin supports me but they do tend to bring me back to reality sometimes, which is a necessary pain. It stinks because my initial reaction is that they're crimping my style, but the reality is there - there are SO many potential cases for a lawsuit.

    So yes, it's important to cover my rear end on all these cases, and I'm thankful that my principal is taking the time to bring these to light. The last thing I'd want is to be fired over some unforeseen lawsuit that could have been prevented. I guess the nature of this thread was not to cast admin in a negative light, but to lament the state of the system today with the ever-present threat of litigation.
     
  13. lemonhead

    lemonhead Aficionado

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    I get it Doug.

    I am sure the litigation threat is always in the back of the mind of successful admins. At my school it's the fairness thing that comes up all the time. My class was not allowed to frost the gingerbread house craft at the winter party because it would be unfair to the 7 other classrooms who had not planned to use frosting. Seriously. All parties have to be the same per grade.
     
  14. Rockguykev

    Rockguykev Connoisseur

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    Our school does an out of state/out of country (we alternate yearly) every year over spring break. I am always offered a chance to go and I always turn it down. I've heard far too many horror stories about teachers, not just districts, being held responsible for things on trips. (Plus, as a male teacher I'm not doing ANY overnights, period.) So, I can't really blame administration for being a bit gunshy. I'm glad we get to do our trip (our principal goes along himself every few years) but I'm even more glad someone else is responsible for it.

    As far as going outside the box in other ways, I think admins are hesitant in general because their jobs are so political. Whenever I am doing something weird, which happens to be pretty much every week, I send a heads up email to my principal and cc the director of curriculum at our district office. That way, when/if we do get calls they know what they are dealing with. More often than not (ok, every time) it is a kid who didn't pay attention to the debrief of the activity and ends up explaining something sounding horrible to the parents!

    So far, I've never been told "no" just to be careful.
     
  15. MsMar

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    As soon as I read "trip to Europe" one of the first things I thought was "students sneaking out to drink." So my guess is that type of scenario is exactly what your principal is concerned about. I went to Paris on a school trip as a Junior in high school. Although I did not sneak out, I know many who did. Nobody was hurt in any way, but it certainly could have happened and I'm sure the parents would have blamed the chaperones. So I really think the principal just wants to make sure you have all your bases totally covered.

    And Alice, wow, what stories!
     
  16. Mamacita

    Mamacita Aficionado

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    I firmly believe that our public schools CATER to the lowest common denominator, and expect the cream to rise to the top and manage all by itself, when in fact, if a particular group is going to get preferential or special treatment, it should be the cream.

    We're losing far too many of our brightest and best because they're so bored and so unappreciated, they just stop working.

    If a class is lucky enough to have a bright, creative, energetic, idea-filled teacher, and another class drew the tired, unimaginative, standardized teacher, well, them's the breaks. If there are enough complaints, maybe the uninspired teachers will be fired, and their positions filled by those who really belong there.

    This business of each classroom getting equal treatment is one of those things that looks "right" on paper, but in real life, well, some teachers are more interesting and care more about the little "extras" than others, and the children lucky enough to be in those classrooms should not be denied their extras just because the other teachers didn't care enough to bother. That's absolutely outrageous.

    My principal forbade me to give my ISTEP group breakfast, because there had been complaints from the other teachers that their students' parents were calling and wondering why THEIR kids weren't being fed. None of the other teachers wanted to bother cooking, so I was told I couldn't, either. I did it anyway.

    No little kid is going to take that huge test in MY room with a growling, empty stomach, and no administrator will prevent me from taking care of them.

    I was written up, of course, but I'm certainly used to that. I consider an "in the box" teacher a disgrace to the profession.

    Icing, indeed. It's those OTHER teachers who should have been reprimanded!!!!
     
  17. smalltowngal

    smalltowngal Multitudinous

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    Mama-that's awful that you were written up for that. I remember when we took the state test in HS (not near as pressured as today's test), they served us all breakfast in our homerooms. Every student taking any test that day received breakfast. Even now, they serve breakfast on test days.
     
  18. Doug_HSTeach_07

    Doug_HSTeach_07 Comrade

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    I understand the potential worries about students sneaking out to drink, but in past trips with our school, they hired a security guard to keep watch on all students' rooms and put tape on the doors to make sure that no one snuck out. It was under-wraps and we never had any problems.

    I could see a lot of problems with passports, kids acting up in customs, etc. but then again I look at the kids that would sign up for this trip and think that they wouldn't try to pull anything stupid. Of course I could be wrong, but these are solid kids that I've had in my classes that give me no reason to believe they'd do immature stuff on a trip like this.
     
  19. Brendan

    Brendan Fanatic

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    PLEASE COME TEACH AT MY SCHOOL. PLEASE. I know we will be having a few openings in the Social Studies department this year because of laziness. I cannot in good conscience have teachers in my department who are not dedicated and hardworking. Its contradictory to what we are are trying to accomplish in school learning through hard work. This I will not tolerate.
     
  20. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    I'm sorry. I didn't mean to imply that you said or mentioned any thing of the sort.

    A LOT of the posts I read here do paint the adminsitration as either incompetant or evil, or as a combination of the two. And I'm sure that some administators earn every bad word written about them.

    But there are some-- and both my husband and I have been fortunate enough to work with them-- who sometimes have to say no to a legitimate request because of circumstances that the teachers either aren't aware of or haven't considered.
     
  21. smalltowngal

    smalltowngal Multitudinous

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    Brenden-too bad you live up north. I'd love to come teach in your school!
     
  22. knitter63

    knitter63 Groupie

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    Oh Peachy,I know just what you mean! This is my situation this year! Our building is the strongest literacy building in our district,yet our new principal (1st year) is so nervous about the reading and writing workshop, that we are letting all other subjects slip by! So frustrating, and I am trying so hard to just go with the flow. But why fix what is not broken? Why keep beating a dead horse?:confused:
     
  23. Jem

    Jem Aficionado

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    The field trip may be an extreme example, but I do think on a whole that creativity in teaching is being discouraged. Alice, it sounds like you work at a wonderful school. The things you've written about your support system would make any teacher happy to work there. But from my experiences, admins are not usually very accommodating to large ideas from teachers. It takes more work on everyone's part. Even in Michigan, at a pretty supportive school, I had to really fight to do my big projects. I did a huge Thanksgiving dinner and invited the other fifth grade classes to join. All they had to do was show up. They declined, because it was out of the norm for them and too much work. I had to fight to do a large economics fair that taught the kids about capital, profit, etc. Again, the principal was hesitant to allow it and the other classes declined. And that was at a really great school. I was hired in CA and told that I was going to be able to create the science program at a new middle school. We were awarded a 25k grant for a school garden, but the principal didn't want to do the legwork with me in planning it, so we lost it. He made me order all the equipment for hands-on experiments, and then made me send them back because he didn't want to spend his budget on them and didn't want the mess of them. He told me he wanted me to take the kids to the Philippines (where most of our kids were from), then changed it to DC, then Yosemite, then canceled it all together, after I did the work on each trip. And don't get me started on my last school. They hired me, fully knowing what kind of teacher I was, and then 'laid' me off because I was raising the bar for the fourth grade teacher, who was also the principal. My projects were too much for her to match when the kids got to her next year, so she would have rather gotten a boring teacher in there.

    I'm really happy for those who get to implement their awesome ideas. But from my experiences, administrators don't know what they want, but they know they don't want extra work.
     
  24. BioTeal

    BioTeal Rookie

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    Jan 14, 2009

    "Before you can think out of the box, you have to start with a box." - Twyla Tharp, The Creative Habit

    There's missing context to that quote (her anecdote is in regards to research for professional dance choreography), so please don't misinterpret it as an attempt to discourage you in any way.

    I think it's relevant in relation to a sales pitch stage, however. If you can ensure that your administrator is on the same page with you on the core "box" origins of your proposal, and how the idea grows from such core mission elements, you'll give more weight to the benefit part of a cost/benefit risk analysis.
     

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