Thursday, June 30, 2011

Introduction Post - Dealing with the Frustration Associated with Educational Mandates

Today's Introduction
        The best part of teaching is actually being in my classroom, connecting to my students and helping them along their educational journey. I am always on the lookout and searching for new teaching practices to help with my teaching pedagogy; however, I get frustrated when an unconnected entity comes into my environment and insists I implement a strategy. Without the required background and research, most of these mandates are simply not applicable to the best teaching practices in my classroom. The implementation of the mandates leads to poor acceptance, resentment, and above all, the frustration of not providing the best learning environment to my students.
Background of Mandates
        During my research, I discovered that mandates are a perfectly acceptable part of our culture, and if they reasonable, they are implemented. The mandate for stopping at a red traffic light is a perfectly sane. All society needs to do is comply to reasonable mandates and life seems fine. I also found that the source of the mandate affects the level of reason; therefore, the more credible and connected the source of the mandate, the more credible the mandate itself. A policeman seems very credible to enforce the traffic laws, but would be looked at as a coercive influence if they entered my kitchen and told me how to cook macaroni and cheese.
        When mandates are perceived as unreasonable, they are dealt with suspicion. Teachers question the validity of implementation to the point where the mandate is subverted. I was surprised to find that unreasonable mandates led to cases of corruption and cheating. I was not surprised to find that mandates led to teacher frustration and stress.
My Course of Action
        It seemed to me that mandates are a cyclic beast. Good mandates lead to enthusiastic implementation, leading to better results, which in turn leads back to positive mandates. Unfortunately, the opposite is true as well. Bad results led to more unreasonable mandates, causing subverted implementation, which results is worse results. Some educational mandates have gotten so unrealistic that they are simply ignored. In some districts, teachers are given input at smaller levels of risk. An Alabama school gave their teachers input to the content of a single in-service day (Daane, 2001). The results were outstanding, most notably the reduction of "math anxiety" in the school. When I have input to a program, I will be more vested in the result. Since I am more connected to the program, logic would say that those details of the mandate are more credible and attached to my students. A better way to think of this connection may be to think globally but act locally, adapting and adopting national ideas to our local district or even my classroom. I am not alone in my frustration, and I see a plan of action and adaptation that may allow me to implement the best intent of a mandate while keeping the content reasonable and the outcome successful.
Monitoring Success
            Implementing good teaching practices is an ongoing process.  I have noticed that some of my lessons and tactics are adopted my other teachers, which shows me I am doing good things and is really quite a complement.  I have borrowed many things from other teachers, and it feels rewarding to give back to others.
            It may be difficult to monitor my frustration levels, especially in a time period when mandates are driven from everyone from the federal government to my next door neighbor. Stopping mandates is impossible, much like stopping the world from turning. I can collaborate with respected fellow teachers, research implementation strategies, and most importantly, continue to provide my students with the best possible teaching practices I can find.

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