Sunday, April 22, 2012

Perception is Reality

                Over the past few years, the American society has been enveloped in the negativity of the educational environment. The Federal government has shared that the most important factor within a person’s education is the teacher, and that this teacher needs to be evaluated through a one stop evaluation system. This same message has resonated in many of the State Legislatures and is now being implemented.

                President Obama (D) orchestrated the Race to the Top program, which simply gave millions of dollars to States to develop an evaluation system and to remove ineffective teachers.  Although the selling of this program was not listed in this manner, the reality seems to be that all failure of education belongs to teachers. Therefore, the system has worked to develop a robust, very expensive evaluation model which, in Florida, was implemented through SB 736 in 2011.

                The monies that Florida received for Race to the Top did not go into the classroom. The reality is that most of that money has been spent in buying the rights to use the Marzano model of evaluation. The irony of this model, is that Marzano himself has stated in his own books, “I strongly believe that there is not (nor will there ever be) a formula for effective teaching”.
With the hypocrisy continuing to develop, Marzano sold an evaluation system to the State of Florida for an unspecified amount of monies, and the majority of the 67 counties in Florida are now using this system. The system is being utilized to evaluate teaching, yet, in reality it is being utilized for punitive reward or removal of favored teachers. The government has said that the system was created to be more collaborative within the field of education and that great teachers would be validated while bad teachers would be removed.

                The irony of a statement such as this is that education is an art. Every teacher has a different method for designing their art and they work within their own style to develop the future of our educated workforce. I certainly understand that there are some artists that are better than others, yet I do not understand an Evaluation tool that is designed that can truly to define who the great artists are from the not so great ones. To me this is perception.

                This year, I have spent a lot of time talking with teachers and administrators and have been listening to the disconnect within my educational circle. Within my own county, the disconnect seems to be the same as in surrounding counties, so I do not believe this to be an abnormal evaluation. Through my analysis, what I am seeing is that administrators are grading teachers based on a review through arbitrary factors. Administration is supposed to walk through classrooms on a consistent basis. My administrator was so busy through the year that he was only able to see me for a total of 16 minutes throughout the year, and when he came to me for my formal observation, he was only able to see a portion of the class. When he and I met for my final evaluation, he looked at me, saw that most of the check marks were within the evaluation and said, “Effective”. I did ask what it takes to be highly effective, and I was told that Effective is the new Highly Effective. Respectfully, for a teacher who considers their art work to be toward the highly effective model, I want to know why I am just effective, and how I become highly effective. I have asked this question to my administrator, to other administrators and to the Union, and at this time none of them are able to qualify what makes a Highly Effective teacher.

                Any qualified teacher knows that they are going to be evaluated by an administrator. What the teachers would like to know is how they are able to reach their full potential. As teachers we offer to our students a rubric which allocates point scores. The observation system that we are being held to has no definitive idea of the skill of teaching. Rather it is very prescriptive to place teachers into a box. Further, when teachers are able to follow the script as it is being asked, the power to evaluate is then left in the hands of an administrator to decide how effective the teacher is. Respectfully, without a true rubric, the aspect of truthful evaluation is further turned into an open ended joke. Talking among teachers, we are now pondering how this evaluation system is moving the abilities of teachers forward. The power to decide the fate of a teacher is now in the hands of an administrator. This is not collaborative at all.

This means that every teacher has to succumb to the whim of the administrators and principals for fear that retribution may arrive from any disagreements. Collegiality is being removed from the field of education and is being replaced with a one size fits all punitive model. If this was the goal  of the Florida Politicians, then I can share with them that their goal has been achieved.  Yet I believe that the original intent of the Political environment was to develop a system that moves the field of education further ahead. The reality is very different, which is why teacher morale is so low. Every teacher has to have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree, yet the field of education is treating teachers as ignorant children.  

The field of education needs to be overhauled, and designed for the 21st century. Presidents need not make education a competition, State legislators need not force the hand of school systems to create Charter Schools for their own gain and school administrators need to learn that teachers are the foundation of our future. There are many ways to evaluate art, yet with every critique there is a differing argument of perspective. Our American Society needs strong, powerful teachers who are able to design their art to stand the test of time. There are many ways to do this; yet this cannot be done with a one stop model to contain every teacher. Perception is reality, and right now, the reality is that every teacher needs to stop the art of teaching and begin the color by number evaluation model.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Purpose for Educating a Globalized Negotiation Model

Social cognition is the mental state upon which our biology and mental abilities combine to create who we are. The development of this concept begins at birth and continues throughout the social environment of our lives.  Recently I was able to see firsthand how the different concept of individualism versus collectivism has an impact on the belief system of people. This difference in beliefs allies with our abilities to negotiate; and the expected outcome of the negotiation.  

Upon entering a cruise ship guests are greeted by people (cruise ship employees) who have given up their normal state of being and are working in a consistent state of flux. Using this example, I mean to say that these people are working on a rotating schedule, and are in different countries, cultures and environments on an everyday perspective. The working people also deal with thousands of different personalities each and every day, and then over a short period of time, have to reset and do this once again. For the majority of westernized people, this idea would be awful and something that we cannot live with.  When taking the time to talk with people who work on a cruise ship, you learn very quickly that it takes a lot of sacrifice in order to maintain employment. My recent excursion taught me that all of the people on this particular boat were on there for 6 months, and were only able to call home when they were in a port. Further, most of the people I spoke to had been part of the company for many years, had children and a husband/wife at home and were comfortable living in a 135sq foot room. Further, all of these people are only guaranteed the contract they currently have, and if they receive too many negative surveys or complaints from customers who are on the cruise ship, then at the end of their cruise, their contract is not renewed. With that in mind, the majority of the people I spoke with was very friendly, and was constantly aware to make me happy in worry of offending me, rather than being honest with me and stating that I am just being ridiculous.

The culture of people on a cruise ship is certainly an interesting study. The part that made me most open my eyes to the different lifestyle was that most of the people working are not Caucasian. The majority of the people working seemed to be from countries that are considered developing. So I put together a small list of questions and began to build a profile of the type of person working on a cruise ship. To begin with I asked the educational level of all the workers I met with, followed by asking of their family life, socioeconomic situation before being on the cruise ship and also since. I also asked if these people had children and if they did what they did with them. The answers would shock many of the people living in a western culture which shows so much of an individualistic mindset. One would think that the western culture would like the cruise ship life due to the ability to see much of the world, yet, in further investigation, the life on board a cruise ship does not delve into the western ideals at all.

When I ask people in the western culture research based questions, I usually get people questioning me, asking what I am going to do with this information and for some of the people, I am asked to go away. It was the opposite through this very short study. The people I asked questions to were only too willing to share, and for some, I think they were offended I only had 6 questions to ask. It was evident that I was supposed to spend more time talking and building a friendship. This is not the same behavior I witness when speaking with people from a more western background, which is part of the reason cultural negotiation, is so difficult.

 In talking about all of the above, one of the areas that I found to have a distinct difference in culture was the aspect of hours worked for monies paid. The people on the cruise ship are not paid a lot of money. The person who cleaned my room began to work at 6am each day and did not end his day until the last person on his section of rooms had given him access to their room to turn down the bed and offer a towel animal. The room steward shared with me that most nights he gets to eat dinner around 8pm and then is in bed himself by 11pm. Although this may seem like a good opportunity, the time between 6am and 11pm is all work. He is given two, 30 minute breaks to eat and redress before he is back on the floor. In the western culture we would state that we deserve overtime, and for that many hours per week we deserve more than an hour break throughout the day. This is a primary reason that you don’t see many western cultured people in positions such as cruise ship steward. With that in mind, I was able to find out that the same hours and work intensity exists for all of the lower classed ship workers. To clarify, even on a cruise ship there is a hierarchy.

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