Term Paper: Education Factors Relating to the Development

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Education

Factors Relating to the Development of Relationships between Teacher Leaders and Their Principals

America's teachers face an educational system that is increasingly complex. They must navigate between the needs of students, and the demands of administrators. In most instances, the principal represents the average teacher's first contact without the outside world of school boards and bureaucratic regulation. There are federally-mandated goals and tests, state benchmarks and funding requirements, and parental and media activists. Principals must respond to, or enforce, the demands of all these groups. Teachers must either find a way to comply, or else must defend their choice to follow an alternative path. The opinions of lone teachers or groups of teachers, count for little when stacked up against the weight of government and community. Teacher leaders must emerge who can speak for all of the teachers in their schools. These teacher leaders can be the voice of the majority; they can act as liaisons between the rank-and-file educator, and the school principal. Ways must be found to develop the capabilities of teacher leaders so they can better articulate the realities of the classroom. The greater the input of these teacher leaders, the greater the probability that America's students will come out the winners in the battle between these students' own needs, and the demands of a frequently distant and impersonal "system." The purpose of this research, therefore, will be to further understand the relationships between teacher leaders and their principals and how these dynamics can be developed.

Statement of the Problem

Developing positive and constructive relationships between teacher leaders and their school principals involves careful consideration of a number of factors. Teacher leaders are not administrative personnel. Their purpose is to facilitate necessary reforms in the local educational system. In many ways, they are like school athletic coaches,

Offering principals and teachers the kind of professional development that research says is most effective: ongoing, in school, high quality, focused on instruction.... [a] reform effort... customized to the specific learning needs of the students and the adults in each school. (Guiney, 2001, p. 740)

By working closely with other teachers, with principals, and with students, teacher leaders are well-placed to understand the needs and concerns of all. They can help to translate administrative goals and teacher concerns into viable plans for improving the educational environment. The California School Leadership Academy conducts a program that focuses on the major aspects of teacher leadership. The California School Leadership Academy provides instruction for teacher leaders and principals and focuses on ten key areas of development:

Leading Through Vision

Building a Vision of Powerful Learning

Reculturing to Create Powerful Learning

Assessment in Service of Powerful Learning

Thinking, Meaning-Centered Curriculum in Service of Powerful Learning

Teaching in Service of Powerful Learning

Creating a Diversity-Sensitive Environment for Powerful Student Learning Systems

Thinking in Service of Student Learning

Building Relationships and Communication Structures in Service of Powerful Student Learning

Shared Vision and Shared Leadership in Service of Powerful Learning (Peterson & Kelley, 2002, p. 331)

The list sums up the duties and challenges of the teacher leader and the principal. The ten factors describe the common ground on which these administrators and teacher leaders must meet if they are to be genuinely responsive to our children's needs. The scope of the problem is easily understood. It is the qualities that go into each of these points in the relationship that require analysis and comprehension.

Definition of Terms

Teacher Leader:

highly-skilled education professional in a non-administrative position who serves as a liaison between teachers and principals and who facilitates the development and implementation of improved teaching methods, greater responsiveness to student needs, works toward creating a better learning environment, addresses issues of school culture, diversity, etc.

Principal:

The administrative head of the school; an individual in a non-teaching position whose responsibilities include the proper functioning of the school, interacting with teachers and students, implementing the federal, state, and local educational requirements, maintaining discipline and an environment conducive to learning and childhood development, etc.

Educational Requirements:

Rules regarding curricula, teaching methods, school organization, student achievement, testing, etc. that are enacted by school boards and state and federal authorities, and which must be observed by teachers and principals.

Educational Reforms:

Educational techniques, changes in curriculum, and modifications in teacher/student and teacher/principal relationships, etc. that depart from those techniques, curricula, and relationships that match or closely match those laid down by Educational Requirements (see above).

Assumptions of Study

For the purposes of this research, it will be assumed that teacher leaders and principals participating in this study are representative of teacher leaders and principals in other schools in other locations across the United States. Teacher leaders and principals participating in this study will be chosen from among schools that are considered to most closely approximate the "typical" American public school. School will be considered "typical" on the basis of student population - gender, racial and ethnic composition and socio-economic status - and also teacher leader and principal demographical characteristics. Demographical characteristics for teacher leaders and principals will be the same as for students with additional criteria regarding "typical" amounts of education and years of experience for each.

Limitations of Study

The foregoing study will be limited by its restriction to "typical" populations; the special circumstances that might attend other populations cannot be adequately considered within the scope of this study due to limitations in researcher time, resources, funds, etc. The study will also be limited by the fact that it is confined to a study of only a limited number of examples of Educational Reform as they relate to the process of teacher leader and principal interaction and improvements in this interaction. A wider variety of education reform examples might lead to a greater variety of conclusions as to the best possible forms of interaction, and might alter the focus of future research into the problem of interaction as well as affect the development of techniques and programs designed to improve interaction.

CHAPTER 2.

LITERATURE REVIEW

Overregulation of Schools

Much of today's educational system is based on the idea that, somehow, all children are the same. The theory is that we all learn at the same rates, and with the same enthusiasm and level of interest. The only source of the very obvious variation in scores and abilities that are seen in today's classrooms must be laid at the feet of the teachers. Or should it? Are all children really so similar that core knowledge, or core curricula can be applied to all? Is there really a way in which curricula should be designed that will equalize student and teacher performance? If one were to look behind the modern school system's mountain of regulations, one would see what really lies behind all these well-meant assumptions. Children are indeed different. They learn in different ways, have different interests, and different abilities. To track children every step of the way through school is to invite the over-generalizing of our educational system. A society such as ours that claims to place such a high value on diversity, and individuality should not be lumping all children together. If Washington - and here one can add the names of many state capitals as well - are genuinely concerned with the progress our children are making, then they should look a more benign and appropriate form of tracking than that represented by the intractable "core curriculum."

At first glance, grouping students by ability would seem a good idea. Proficient students are placed in one class, mediocre students in another, and so on. Each group is taught at its own speed and according to its own needs. However, there are decided drawbacks to this approach. As sociologist Donna Eder points out (Eder, 1981), the resulting lack of diversity also tends to reinforce the existing problems. As stated above, learning is more than just the putting together of facts and concepts, it is also a process of psychological growth and development. Many students who do poorly in English and math and other subjects do not have the necessary study skills or the enthusiasm required to tackle difficult or abstruse subjects. Something perceived as useless or uninteresting is not likely to inspire much effort. By schooling low-ability pupils and high-ability pupils together, the low-ability pupils are exposed to the study habits and learning skills of their more advanced classmates. Since children learn by imitation, it follows that placing low-ability students in a class all by themselves will only reinforce bad habits. The lack of interest that so often arises from poor performance will become general throughout the class, only further retarding progress. As well, such segregation has the further adverse effect of creating a hierarchy of abilities. Students may wrongly come to understand their position in the hierarchy as a reflection of individual worth and not as one of scholastic ability.

These negative effects still hold true even where students are otherwise from similar backgrounds. The more low-ability students are separated out from the general population, the worse… [END OF PREVIEW]

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