Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Finding New Entrepreneurial Educators

The next step in this goal of creating challenging, dynamic inner city high schools with a vibrant culture of learning is attracting high quality college graduates and members of our private sector. My goal is to create a faculty of specialists rather than teachers with education degrees, something I consider an enormous waste of time; it is a degree that by and large attracts mediocre students. Learning is the ultimate “learn on the job” profession; trial and error is the defining characteristic of successful teachers, teachers whose desire to improve their craft and improve their work product is never satiated.

Members of the private and non-profit sectors, be they mechanics, electrical engineers, accountants, zoologists, fundraisers, marketing specialists, or a host of other professions, have the potential to be excellent teachers. The most salient issue is the extent to which they demonstrate those aforementioned characteristics of successful entrepreneurs.
It is of course incumbent on schools to provide the necessary support for these new teachers, ideally in the form of mentor teachers and clinical supervisors. It has always been my belief that every school in New Jersey should have a clinical supervisor on staff, charged with the sole responsibility of providing this specific brand of supervision to the faculty. As for remuneration, that would of course be up to each school district, but I would suggest something akin for crediting these new teachers with up to one year on the salary scale for each year of experience they bring to the classroom.
Now as for college students, it is time for the state to incentivize the process of bringing students with degrees other than education into the profession. I believe that having a system of performance pay and performance ladders are an attraction for those with the entrepreneurial spirit I seek. Providing professional support in the manner I suggested above will help draw prospective teachers; it will certainly help insure that these new teachers stay in teaching rather than “flee” to the private and non-profit sectors.
But of course the most direct way to attract these college students is to offer some financial inducement such as signing bonuses or the reduction or elimination of student debt. The burden of debt is growing more severe each year, so giving new graduates the opportunity to start their professional lives with little or any debt is incredibly appealing. I would like nothing more than to staff my school with entrepreneurial minded graduates with degrees in a multitude of disciplines.
It is critical at this juncture to try anything and everything we can to develop a knowledgeable, passionate faculty of individuals ready to meet the challenges of teaching. These entrepreneurial educators will provide the foundation for schools that teenagers look forward to attending. Assume tat no teenager MUST attend school, and devise a school program and curriculum that they WANT to attend.
It starts with a quality faculty, but even the best of faculties will stumble and fail if it is not supported by entrepreneurial administrators, professionals dedicated to creating a culture of learning in the school and willing to put in the time and effort necessary to secure the involvement of critical stakeholders, namely the parents and members of the business and non-profit communities. It is through the involvement of the community that students will receive the support and enrichment they need and deserve.
In a future posting we will turn our attention to the management of a school staffed by entrepreneurial minded teachers. It Is this management that will provide the “infrastructure” for our community of teachers and students and the extrinsic motivation to elicit exemplary work from both.
The challenge of creating inner city schools with the potential for high quality learning like that found throughout New Jersey’s suburbs is an enormous undertaking; these communities are hampered by a dearth a dearth of resources and demographics that do not align with those evident in our successful suburban districts. It is up to those who run these urban schools to find creative ways to compensate for those missing ingredients. But it can be done. Frankly, it must be done.

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