Recently, I was asked for what I would want the NMSBA, (New Mexico School Board Association), to know about teaching and learning in New Mexico. After doing some thinking about this I have decided to express some of my ideas.
First of all, I would like to ask the boards to encourage superintendents to not ignore their own experts. Within the teaching community of each district, are people who are experts in many different fields, those who have developed skills using mostly their own time and sometimes, considerable money. If the district needs professional development, work on websites, networks, developing policies, etc., look to them first and pay them an stipend to train staff and develop materials. What is paid will be small compared to contracting with an outside source for training, etc. That outside source will not be as familiar with the district’s needs and will have a learning curve before progress is made.
Encourage networking with neighboring districts and universities, this will help districts share resources, ideas, and maybe even get an “expert” from a neighboring district if one is not found on staff. This type of networking helps each district even out the demand for resources and will benefit teaching staff and students. What comes to my mind is the Boot Heel Consortium, a networking of resources on and off online that benefited teaching and learning in the southwest corner of our state.
Next, I would like to ask that school boards keep track with the changes that our society is undergoing and encourage schools to adapt changes and be willing to be aware of huge benefits to teaching and learning by moving to 21st century practices, (ASCD/ISTE makes its “School 2.0 & Understanding by Design” ). When there is no local expert. instead of sending staff off to conferences/training or importing a trainer/lecturer, consider video conferencing, webinars, and other technology for communication of ideas/training. At the classroom level, teachers should be able to connect with other classrooms around the state or elsewhere in the world for information and collaborative learning. (Students want more online classes) In many districts, this will require a serious rewrite of AUP and delegation of authority at the school level instead of centralized control.
Finally, I would ask that school boards begin the process towards encouraging quality management that will help retain staff, improve instruction, and allocate resources for the benefit of the learner and taxpayer. Superintendents need to delegate authority to the schools and mandate real teamwork between principals and staff where staff is allowed to team w/decision making and responsibility for change, (including allocation of resources), as part of what they do. By teams, I mean teams, not committees. Teams have authority to make decisions and carry them out, committees are just assigned work. Resources: ASQ’s Learning Center “The task of the leader is to get his people from where they are to where they have not been.” – Henry Kissinger
So, members of NMSBA, where are schools going?