Successful teachers have a strong sense of personal responsibility and a broad sense of personal power that comes from a deep-seated belief that they are in control of their and their students’ success. Excuses are therefore unacceptable. While this mindset is undeniably important, in some circumstances it can lead to an “I don’t care who you are, you aren’t going to stand in the way of success for my students” attitude in interactions with colleagues and administrators. This attitude, while perhaps rooted in the best of intentions, can lead to being ostracized and burning bridges with the very people who have the ability to provide us with more time and resources for our students.
When working with colleagues and administrators in your school or district to secure additional instructional time or resources for your students, approach these interactions assuming the best in these “gate keepers,” and remember that collaboration always trumps confrontation. Resist the urge to view administrators as the “enemy,” even if they have previously made decisions you believe to have not been in the best interests of your students. In nearly all cases, these individuals have priorities that are aligned with yours – and working to bring these shared beliefs to the surface during your interactions can help you achieve your aims. Don’t underestimate the importance of skillfully navigating school, district, and community politics in your pursuit of student achievement. Ultimately, having superintendents, principals, committee chairs, and janitors in your corner will lead to an increased ability to have a positive impact in your classroom, and this is a reality that you cannot lose sight of.
Pursue additional time and resources [W-2]
Pick your battles
- Identify all time and resource constraints
- Prioritize constraints that most negatively impact students
Get what you need
- Identify potential solutions aligned to constraints
- Prioritize solutions which yield highest impact on student achievement
Invest gate keepers
- Identify "gate keepers" who control time and resources
- Influence "gate keepers" to help you get what you need
Use what you get
- Use acquired time and resources wisely to have a sustained impact on student achievement
Illustrations are grouped by the proficiency that they best bring to life.
We would like to communicate our deep appreciation to these teachers who are allowing us to learn from their experiences.
When we’re confronted with the seemingly inexhaustible array of constraints on our work as teachers, and the range of potential solutions for taking on these constraints – selecting the key constraint that’s holding our students back, and charting the correct course for overcoming this can be an incredibly difficult task. Not to mention the fact that we’re often faced with making these crucial decisions in states of mental, physical, and emotional exhaustion. However, there’s a clear danger in incorrectly identifying what’s holding your students back, and as a result pursuing a solution that is misaligned: wasted effort in an arena where our energy is an ever-precious commodity.
To ensure that you have both identified the time or resource constraint that is most holding your students back and taken the correct approach to solving this challenge, focus this entire process on a sole outcome: improving student achievement. This singular approach can help you separate potentially ineffective levers (field trips to amusement parks) from those that will truly move your students forward (tutoring time on Saturday mornings, after-school programs, science lab materials).
Also, the more opinions you can get about what the key constraints and levers in your classroom are, the better the chance you’ll come to a correct decision. When you are so close to the action in your classroom – and also potentially frazzled by long hours and stress – it may be the case that you are not in the best position to clearly identify what’s most holding your students back, or to determine how to address this constraint. Reach out to trusted colleagues to engage them in this process, as an outside perspective could be exactly what you need.
What Does This Look Like? This document includes the following:
- Creating kindergarten curriculum
- Intervention program (Kindergarten)
- Saturday tutoring (3rd Grade)
- Building a reading café (4th Grade)
- Providing Middle School Choice (5th Grade)
- Integrating technology (5th Grade)
- "Parents’ Learning Night" (5th Grade)
- Maximizing science scheduling (Elementary Science)
- "The Homework Club" (6th Grade ELA)
- "Taco Thursdays" (6th Grade Math)
- Grant-writing success (7th Grade Life Science)
- Donorschoose.com to the rescue (7th Grade Math)
- Extra time for biology (HS Biology)
- Saturday school: breakfast and history (HS History)
- HS Chemistry resources