Tuesday, September 28, 2010

We all have days in our classrooms when we are less than 100%, not quite organized, not completely prepared for what we are doing. I've certainly had my share!

However, with that in mind, I am shocked at how unorganized and unprepared some teachers are for their day. I could never function with the lack of preparation and sense of order for the day that they seem to manage.

Beyond the obvious just being unorganized, I wonder how this impacts students and their learning. How can you, as a student, ever feel like you know what you are to learn, how you are to learn it, and how that learning is going to be judged/assessed, when you are in a classroom that flies by the seat of the teacher's pants?

Imagine coming to work each day, having no idea what tasks might be expected of you, the rules of the job changing day to day. Imagine that one day, it is OK to eat your lunch at your desk, but the next day, you have to eat in the cafeteria or be reprimanded. But the next day, the opposite is true. Imagine at today's staff meeting, you are berated for not contributing ideas to the discussion but at next week's meeting, you do contribute and are told to be quiet. Imagine your upcoming evaluation being based on how well you conform to those expectations.

Even worse, imagine being a new employee under this boss. References to events that happened before you were there are frequent and you are made to feel stupid because you weren't working there at the time and have no idea what the references mean.

I realize that we all operate our classrooms by our own standards, and I truly do not expect everyone to abide by "MY" standards. We are all changing and evolving as educators, trying to offer our students the best educational opportunities possible. But it seems incredibly unfair that incompetency is allowed to pervade education and reflect poorly on all.
In order to experience success at schools, students need structure, predictability, fairness and engagement. Classrooms without these in place are wasting students' time and energy and opportunity to learn.


Anonymous said...

Longtime reader here. I agree with you in general, but just to play devil's advocate, planning ahead and staying organized can be incredibly difficult when you are overburdened with responsibilities and have very little prep time. This is my 13th year of teaching and while I am not especially disorganized, I totally empathize with frazzled and harried teachers who have no time to plan much beyond today's lessons. Often, the only way to catch up is to work two to four hours beyond the normal school day. I did that for years before deciding that I wanted my time back. I was close to burnout and had to prioritize my life over my job. Today, while I am sometimes a little behind or a tad disorganized, I am at least more relaxed because I have learned to leave my job at work. That peacefulness is just as important to the quality of my work as having well-laid lesson plans. I know you're not necessarily referring to my kind of "disorganization" in your post - just wanted to offer another POV.

cossondra said...

Hi "anonymous" :) I understand the need to avoid burnout, trust me! And you are right, I don't mean the type of disorganized you are referring to but rather the situation created when the teacher's lack of preparedness leads to students having no idea what to expect not only day to day in a classroom, but even as far as tomorrow's test. That kind of attitude towards one's teaching job is, in my mind, liken to educational malpractice. If students cannot function due to teacher's 'over-relaxed' attitude, then it is unacceptable. Trust me, I have plenty of days I choose to let something go, several somethings, in fact, just for my own peace of mind. Thanks for a different POV though. It is always appreciated.

Ms. F said...

Have you ever considered doing an action research project on how a teacher's organizational ability affects students work in the classroom? I apologize if the question seems a bit odd but I am doing an MIT program that involves an action research project and your question poses intrigue to someone like me. You pose such great questions on you blog and it just makes me wonder if you every try to do research to answer them...

cossondra said...

Ms. F - No, I haven't but it would make an interesting project. So much discussion in education today revolves around what makes an effective teacher, this seems a logical part of that search for the ellusive traits of differentiating between just a teacher, and a highly effective one.