Friday, March 28, 2008

Administrators and Listening

(The purpose of this blog is to share interesting ideas I have found in American professional publications dealing with the teaching of English at all levels, elementary, secondary and college.)

Topic: Listening and the Program Administrator

Title: "Mapping the Terrain: The Two-Year College Writing Program Administrator." Teaching English in the Two-Year College (March 2008), 238-251.

Summary: Administrators need to listen openly to all who are involved in the program for which they are responsible.

The author urges program administrators to listen to everyone involved with the program in order to encourage dialogue with staff, colleagues and central administrators. J Klausman. Teaching English in the Two-Year College (March 2008), 247.

[Comments: The author neglects to mention about listening to the chief clientele, the students.

In my book, Teaching English, How To…, I make listening the first of four suggestions for successful supervision. In my career, I found that many popular educational fads were forced on teachers by administrators and the teachers resisted. Teachers, I learned, will make changes readily if they can understand that the changes will help to solve problems.

Administrators need to learn about problems by listening to all of their constituents—school board members, fellow administrators, parents, students—but, especially, teachers. When I arrived in a Pennsylvania school district in 1970 as K-12 supervisor, I listened to the teachers. When I asked them about the curriculum, they replied, “What curriculum?” They then set about defining the language arts curriculum, K-12, with a purpose and energy that transformed the existing ill-defined program.

The best ideas in my career and most significant changes came from teachers who willingly discussed problems with me. On the other hand, when “whole language” was forced on the elementary teachers from above by administrators, the negative emotion was immense, rebellion almost palpable. Many teachers thought that problems with the basal would NOT be solved by throwing the basal out of the curriculum. The outcome was resolved when teachers combined the use of the basal with whole language, which featured a greater emphasis on children’s literature and writing, yet retained the emphasis on systematic word recognition and phonics provided by a basal.

The first rule for administrators is to listen to everyone involved in the program. And don’t stop listening—ever


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