September 12, 2006

Too many consultants?

I sat in a meeting of teachers today when someone in the crowd made reference to a clause about consultants and made the statement that she felt “there were too many consultants anyway”.

This made me upset for two reasons:

  1. I wouldn’t want to suggest, espescially in public that I felt a school or some other area of the division was overstaffed.
  2. More importantly, it upsets me because it reflects an attitude that exists that would suggest that solving the challenges of education lies in increasing the number of teachers.

I believe that the role of the consultant is largely two fold;support teachers in the classroom with their current situations but also to present possibilites, ideas and support for change.

I’m certain a survey of teachers would reveal that few would suggest that the current model of education is in a good state. Everyone’s talking about the changing student, the changing world and the lack of change in education. This conversation is taking place as much outside the blogosphere as it is in it.

It’s clear that we need to continue to help teachers see the need for change and that the solution is much more complicated and involved than simply providing more teachers. Last year as budget cuts called for the loss of over 40 teachers, reference was made to the large expenditure in technology and wondering if supplying a school with new computers was justifiable considering that schools were losing teachers. In this case, the understanding of technology as an intregal part of learning was not shared by all.

Michael Fullan talks about the “daily grind” and how this makes it difficult for teachers to consider much else besides just getting by. I acknowledge this problem and sympathize with teachers in situations where survival is the best they can hope for. But we have to demand more. We have to have teachers who consider themselves learners first. We need teachers who believe that reflective practice is critical for growth. Even when things are nuts and out of control, survival can’t be all there is. I remember reading the reflective teacher and my impression was that last year was a challenging year but through reflection and search for new ways of approaching teaching and learning, change happened.

So while I know I can’t reach everyone and support everyone, I’m challenged by this reminder that many consider my job and others like mine as “extras”. I probably knew that already but rarely think about it. My natural inclination is to speak louder and longer but that may not be the best response. I suppose that it also tells those that serve as consultants that we need to do a better job promoting our work. Is that called marketing? Hopefully those who I’ve been able to work with and speak to would feel differently than this individual. In the meantime, I’ll keep talking about new stories of teaching and learning.

Update:

I’ve had a few second and third hand responses about this post being unethical or somehow should have not have been public. Here’s my response:

  1. Firstly, this is my personal blog.
  2. Secondly, the fact it’s linked from the school division website is no different that other resources that contain a disclaimer.
  3. Thirdly, I make no personal reference.
  4. Fourthly, if you read the post, you’ll see I’m addressing a general perception I believe to be true from my experience…that’ what a weblog is for. I think it’s better these discussion happen publicly rather than in segregated staff rooms and other closed environments.
  5. And finally, if on some point you disagree, leave a comment or contact me directly. I’d welcome the discussion.