Friday, August 17, 2007

School Peformance Anxiety--No More Gimmicks!

Okay, maybe it was cute to see the occasional principal pledge to shave his head if student test scores improved at his school for the year. But some of the stunts to rah-rah rally kids at scantron time have become more irrelevant, protracted, and bizarre. We should probably expect these to get weirder with the buzz over NCLB renewal and as test scores hit plateaus.

At one Title I Elementary School in Riverside, California, a principal pledged to spend a whole day on the school roof. In a memo to staff, the administrator wrote, "Following the [school] assembly I will climb a ladder to the top of the annex roof and set up my office for the day. While this event may take some time away from regular activities it can certainly provide you with fodder for some other very meaningful lessons."

Fodder for lessons? Now that's a real educator talking!

The memo enumerated eleven "ideas" for lesson plans related to her day spent on the roof, including:

"Students can write friendly letters to me about the event. I will have a mail 'basket' hanging off the side of the roof in which students can put messages to me."

"Teachers can read other picture books aloud in which the main character is a principal."

"Have students draw pictures of me on the roof, and then write stories to go with the pictures, or orally tell about the pictures during Language Development time."

My favorite suggestions were that teachers should tell their students about "not trying this at home" and asking them to read classes a passage from a book titled What Principals Do When No One Is Looking. The principal also included a song about the event she wrote to the tune of "Up on the Housetop" which teachers were encouraged to sing with their students. (Call me crazy, but I wouldn't turn loose lyrics at a school with "ho, ho, ho, there she goes" in the refrain.)

How revealing is it that gimmicks can end up being more about administrative ego than about celebrating real campus achievement in a meaningful way? The image of any principal sitting on top of his or her school is, ironically, simply another powerful metaphor for disconnections we're all expected to ignore.

1 comment:

Andy Hilbert said...

Powerful metaphor--yes, but still I know a few administrators who would be far more effective if they moved their offices to the literal roof. Great post.