Month: October 2013

Fair, Equal, Equitable

I recently changed roles at work. For 4 years, I was the Principal of a high performing, technology rich elementary school of almost 700 students.  We had high test scores, relatively affluent families, and -through tenacious fundraising- were able to put technology into the hands of our teachers and students.  We mounted projectors and SMART boards, purchased tablets and computers, and subscribed to online databases for video and interactive books. As the Principal of my school, I had a laser focus on raising funds so that I could enact our shared vision for teaching and learning.

I am currently in a new role, serving as the Director of Instructional Technology in the same school district.  We are in the process of articulating our vision- as a district- for what technology should look like in teaching and learning.  As I visit campuses, talk to teachers, and witness classroom instruction, I am confronted with a moral dilemma.

I had formerly been an ardent supporter of the local fundraising efforts. Namely, I believed that if our community could fund technology, why wouldn’t we? Why shouldn’t we? So, when I start suggesting that school technology should not be the work of parent fundraising, it’s something to note.

Like I said above, we are currently working to form a vision for technology across our 11 school districts. One of the difficulties in creating a singular vision for a school district is the disparity in access and experience among our school sites. Creating a consistent vision of technology is difficult when we have some students who routinely use technology, and others that have monthly experiences. And, don’t get me started on the differences between teacher technology skills. When schools from the same system have disparate amounts of technology and disparate levels of teacher tech skills, a problem will arise.

It’s fairly evident that a technology gap exists. Does allowing schools to purchase technologies on their own perpetuate this gap?  How can a school district offer a consistent experience across all school sites?

I am not really sure where I stand on this anymore.  I obviously used to lean toward the side of “let my school buy what it wants and what it can.” Now, I lean toward the idea of finding a way to make technology purchasing moire equitable.  I know that this district ran into some very murky and controversial waters, and I certainly don’t seek to create a divide or “petulance.”

So, in the end, I am not sure what “fair,” “equitable,” and “equal” mean these days.

The Grass is Always Greener

As a teacher, I remember thinking to myself,

“My principal just doesn’t get it.”

I would sometimes think that they were so far removed from the classroom that their decisions had no basis in reality.  Whether it was a new procedure we had to follow or the plans for a special schedule, I often felt like I had a better way of doing things. Then, I became a Principal. (While I am sure that the teachers on my site once in a while thought “What is he thinking?” that’s not what this post is about; they can write their own blog posts.) Again, I found myself thinking,

“What are they thinking? Don’t they get it?”

From directives regarding instruction or new forms that had to be completed and collected, the decisions of those above me once again were impacting my efficiency. I felt like things took forever to happen at the district level.

“What could they be doing up there that makes things take so long?”

The only difference was that I was now talking about district administrators.  Clearly, they had been off the school campus for so long and therefore had lost touch with the realities of the school site. I felt frustrated when people so far removed from the classroom were making decisions, seemingly without input from the people most affected by these decisions.

My, how the tables have turned.

I am now a district administrator, fielding around 200 emails and 25 phone calls a day. These emails and phone calls are asking when things will be done, when decisions will be made. Lo and behold, I’m asking myself,

“Don’t they get it?”

The only change for me is that I can no longer look upwards for someone on whom I can assign blame. As the Director of Instructional Technology, I have the heavy responsibility of making decisions that will affect hundreds of teachers and thousands of students. These are not decisions I make lightly. These are decisions that will have financial and practical implications. Some of the decisions I make- if made drastically wrong- could get me or the Superintendent fired. So, yeah, I take my time when making decisions.

“Don’t the get it?”