Sometimes you’re just fed the right straight lines. From a comment on my previous post: “Learn to keep your door closed and locked and your phone off the hook.”
The thing is, I’d already come to this conclusion on my own. All1 of the teachers that I respected at that school followed this strategy. They minimized their interaction with other faculty, ignored what other teachers did, and just worked on their own. Put your head down, don’t try to change the school, just worry about your own classes and your own students.
This is a losing strategy. Isolationism may be somewhat effective short term, but even teachers need to interact with each other, and intentionally cutting yourself off from them will only serve to empower those that do maintain strong social ties to other teachers, regardless of their actual teaching skill.
And, right as I was mulling this post, along comes some new research from Cornell
We find that students perform better when their teachers’ peers have better observable characteristics. In models that use teacher value-added (based on historical student achievement gains) as a measure of teacher quality, we find that students experience greater test score gains when their teacher’s peers have higher mean estimated value-added in both math and reading.
In English that says “A teacher’s improvement is proportional to the strength of their colleagues.” It’s sort of a pedagogical version of Newton’s law of cooling.
I’d already come to that conclusion myself, as well. Those strong teachers that I had a comfortable relationship with would freely admit that, while they had to shut their doors and isolate themselves, also were not improving (and if anything, losing) their skills. What I was looking at was ongoing frustration and a decline in whatever talents I’d developed.
So, I jumped ship. I’m going to be teaching at a new school in two weeks. I looked for a school that set high expectations for their teachers as well as their students, had low staff turnover2, and a well defined set of expectations for everyone from administration down to the students. I think I’ve found that, though I may be giving up a lot in other things I’d gotten comfortable with. I need a good foundation, though, and I’ve got high hopes this new school will give me something to build on.
1 There was one exception – she was very active in many facets of the school. However, she also used her influence to shift schedules and teams, so that in practice she spent most of her time collaborating with only stronger teachers.
2 The old school had about 15-20% turnover in teachers every year. The only reason there were openings at the new school is because of class size reduction mandated by QIEA: the needed new teachers – none of the old ones were leaving.