Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Fine Line...But Should it Be?

As I consider topics for this blog and as I contemplate how to discuss issues that come up in the classes I take to become a special ed administrator, I find myself in quite the dilemma.  Ethics might be involved here.

(Keep in mind as you read further that 'them' and 'they', do not mean all.  In my long career I have worked with some excellent administrators.  This blog is all about my journey of transformation and I use past experience with good and poor administrators as my guide.)

I have been a public school teacher for 18 years.  With that comes the responsibility to keep certain things confidential as well as to be a mandated reporter of neglect and abuse.  There is much neglect in schools.  How does one report that?  Which takes precedence?  Protecting our profession (confidentiality) or reporting what is not so good (neglect)?

While much is good in the world of special education, very much is not.  In every district I have worked and sent my own children, there is much withheld information about daily practice.  Parents don't necessarily know how personnel cuts are really affecting the programs their kids are in. While we (parents of special education students) receive our Parent's Rights handbooks every year, it is not light reading. And I am a special education teacher!  Parents don't necessarily know what options to explore or who to go to when they sense something is not quite right.  They don't know they can ask for something better. 

In every district I have worked and had my children attend, certain realities about services have been withheld.  Most often parents are given the "company line" with a PR approach one cannot get around.  Very few discussions are of any depth. 

For example, if a parent questions the lack of necessary personnel in a program and they feel it is affecting their child, they are told to go to teacher first, then principal, then special education, then superintendent if needed.  So, good compliant parent does this, but once the concern is brought to the table, principal usually calls up the ladder as warning that this parent is asking questions.  The bulletproof glass walls go up and as parent gets higher and higher up, all they get is the "company line" and reassured over and over that the district is monitoring the situation.  Done.  

I don't want to incriminate any specific people or districts, but I want to have open honest  disclosure so that real problem solving can be explored.  Public education is so busy covering its ass (which is a full time job!) that it has lost sight of what really matters... 
  • Taking care of teachers who take care of kids.  
  • Ensuring quality programs for students with special needs. 
  • Developing and using appropriate evaluation tools that reflect how special education teachers deliver services.  
  • Providing meaningful staff development.
  • Providing teachers with what they need to be effective.
When I look at this list, it occurs to me that all of the above require that administration walk a day in a special educator's shoes, no... that that they have lived it long enough to really get it.  When we put administrators with relatively little direct experience in charge, we cannot expect them to always make sound decisions, and not because they are bad people, but because they don't have the level of awareness necessary to make programming decisions. What bothers me most is that they don't even recognize that not only is that missing in them, but that it is integral to them being effective leaders.

So, as I go through this process of becoming an administrator, my theory is that my many years of experience will serve me well, will make me a better leader, manager, visionary.  I want to take us from mediocrity to excellence.

As I blog through this I will be mindful of how I express any outrage or frustration I experience.  I won't purposely incriminate anyone.  But I will use fictionalized versions of real life examples from all the districts I have worked in (6) without benefit of time frame.  

This should solve my ethical dilemma.  How much to say, how much to hide...all while kindly exploring the issues.

1 comment:

  1. Oh, you should have seen the LEA at our IEP last spring when we mentioned we had "recourse" if the evaluation wasn't completely properly.... educated parents seem to be an administrator's nightmare. Would you like to come along to our next IEP?


Although I am dangerously opinionated, I am a flexible thinker and welcome your thoughts.