Archetypes and Prototypes

21 September 2008

I am part "Dear Abby" with my new job. One of the programs I support involves various teacher leaders around the state---nearly all of them novices with this role. The satisfaction and fulfillment that has come from mentorship in the past has been renewed in guiding these newbie staff developers. That being said, this is the first time I've served in such a role with those who are working with adults, rather than students. This is a whole different animal.

There are certain archetypes of teachers out there. Not every teacher will fall under a label, and I am not going to catalog them all. But here are the three most common ones that my charges are asking about:
  • Coach First, Teacher Second: There is no doubt that athletic coaches have an incredible amount of commitment to their student athletes. A considerable amount of time is spent outside the school day---and in addition to the regular sports season---to guide and develop skills. A few coaches, however, make this their primary reason for being employed by the school and things that are classroom related take such a backseat that they make no allowances for collaborating with peers. Is there a solution? Yes and no. First of all, I remind the teachers I support that it is not their responsibility to set expectations: that task belongs to the administrator. Suggest the occasional half-day of release time to collaborate with others during the sports season and then move to other mutually agreed upon meeting times. I make it clear to my noobs that they do have a responsibility to put together some powerful professional development. If they can show the coach that the collaborative time is meaningful, they won't have to beg anymore.
  • Superstar Teacher: Superstar teacher is an administrator's dream. This teacher has a great system in the classroom. He's loved by kids and parents, gets results---and does it all by himself. There is no arrogance associated with his performance, just professional satisfaction. So, how do you get these kinds of teachers to share their knowledge with others? My first recommendation is bribery. These are teachers who are self-directed in their professional learning. They will want a subscription to a website, the latest ASCD book, or sub coverage to attend a workshop. Whatever you offer must be coupled with some honest flattery. Tell them you've noticed certain lessons they've designed or student projects they've guided. Would they mind sharing a couple of ideas with the new teacher in the department? Providing some advice?
  • Dead Wood: Dead Wood likes her classroom door closed. She's been teaching for 20 years, and poorly at that, and isn't much interested in whatever staff development you're offering. Job security is hers as her efforts aren't quite poor enough that any administrator will jump through the necessary hoops to get her out of the classroom. Perhaps you can at least bring her to the table with other teachers to talk about student learning? You might. Start small. Ask her for help, even if you don't need it. Pretend you're looking for a lesson a particular topic or ask for a copy of a lab you know she has. Just get your foot in the door and honor the positive things that she does have to offer. Don't push collaboration for a bit and focus on building her self-image of someone who is a resource. Later, after you have the trust and relationship built, invite her to join your group.
In all cases, it really is about taking the time to build a positive working relationship with one's peers. My advice may appear manipulative, but they are only suggestions for getting things kicked off. I always tell the staff developers that I trust their professional judgment. They know their teachers far better than I and will have to make the final determination. These staff developers are attempting to be prototypes---or role models---for their peers in terms of what implementation of best practices looks like. In order to be effective, though, they will need to learn how to address the archetypes in their buildings.

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1 Comments:

Blogger Lightly Seasoned said...

I just blogged a little bit about my experience with staff development at http://lightlyseasonedteacher.blogspot.com/2008/09/that-was-quick.html -- it's frustrating even when it is going well on a personal level.

6:33 PM  

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