Tuesday, 3 February 2009

How should high performing teachers be recognised?

We have some great teachers in schools, but let's face it we also have some mediocre ones. So how should teachers be 'rewarded' for excellence and what would 'excellence' look like?

Many companies have a component of their salary that is 'at risk', depending on performance. My experience with this is that it doesn't necessarily make a difference to performance and indicators are often inexact and based on linear thinking. Even companies that focus on a quadruple bottom line fdo not always identify what makes a difference. Internationally, organisations have typically bowed to CEOs by supporting large bonuses for dubious success. This has led to a breed of business executives who are greedy, self serving and sometimes dishonest. Is this the model we would want in our schools? Do we want individuals to focus on the team or on themselves? It is an interesting debate and one that I do not have an answer for.

There is no doubt however, that we need to manage talent more powerfully in order to maintain the great teacher leaders in the profession. I recently conducted a survey on twtpoll asking how great teachers should be recognised. Although the sample is small it makes for interesting reading.

People do want recognition. They do need to feel valued by the organisation and to feel that they are listened to. With an increasingly diverse workforce employers do need to be more flexible, be open to different work combinations and provide for the ongoing learning of staff. If principals, and other organisational leaders, don't get this right they may find themselves with disengaged staff or those whose performance is questionable. In difficult times it is even more important that we keep our staff growing and building their skills.

Some schools would say they need to focus on the development of the team more than the individual and I do support the need to build a strong professional learning community. As well though (not instead of), schools need to think differently about growing staff. Maybe there is more opportunity for staff to be individual contractors and being paid accordingly. Or is it time to work hard to support all teachers to be of an exceptional standard? And to suggest that some teachers might be better suited to other occupations? In my book teachers are role models who make a difference to students - either positively or negatively - and all teachers need to be competent leaders of themselves and others. Principals must provide strong professional learning opportunities, confront poor performance and develop leadership in others. Or get out of the way of the future.


Prof Stephen Heppell said...

This is my solution - starting al round the world this year:


Podgorani said...

I linked off to the profs theory and couldnt disagree more with his theory. the problem is that i dont have the mental capacity to grasp his big idea so have taken the negative stance. however a global solution to this issue is one way of looking at the problem, a smaller less stress free environment could be in our small little corner of the universe (our school). Being aware that people want recognition, appreciate more PD, and have the ability to present, teach and lead others is knowledge worth knowing. Yes more pay is nice and a can of worms perhaps not worth opening BUT there are other ways to build leaders, talent, capacity and reward people intrinsically. Appreciate the article.

Ian W Hall said...

One of the enduring questions, Cheryl, and one that is much debated here in the UAE as well, where a major school reform project is under way. This isn't the place for a major dissertation but I reckon that teachers generally value, and respond to, honest feedback about performance (based on good-quality data). High performance needs to be recognised and rewarded and those with performance issues need to have these clearly identified and be well supported as endeavours are made to improve. Professional development and support is crucial for all professional people and teachers lag well behind in my experience - more opportunities are needed for refreshment and upgrading (the CPPA Fellowship and the Woolf Fisher awards are great examples). We all need some variety and some sense of excitement in our work lives and there is no doubt that we all value recognition (I learned long ago from Dame Jean Herbison that a simple "thank you" can work wonders) and I think that appropriate rewards are important too - teachers need to be paid well and have good conditions of employment and the best teachers need to be paid REALLY well, so that they can be encouraged to stay in the classroom - in the polytechnics a long time ago we had a Senior Tutor rank which allowed superior teaching performance to be recognised and rewarded and people did not need to go into administrative positions to be well paid (in fact, I remember at least two Heads of Departments who willingly opted to move away from administration to a Senior Tutor position). Lots to think about!!

Fastpaddy said...

Teachers want to be recognised as professionals, yet there are teachers whose performance and actions does not warrant this label. Yet they remain in their position. What other profession allows this to happen. Accountants, lawyers, doctors, etc. would be fired or lose clients for bad practice and bad advice, and can end up being sued. Teachers are responsible for the future of our country, yet because the majority of teachers work in state schools, and education is not for profit, we allow mediocrity to go unchallenged. The word professional invokes the idea of quality and adherence to a set of standards regarding practice and ethics. It also assumes that non-adherence to these standards means loss of certification to practice.

I am proud to call myself a teacher and love my job, but the amount of back-stabbing, poor practice and unprofessional behaviour I see among some teachers in schools saddens and discourages me. Thankfully, these teachers are in the minority, but their actions sully all of us.

I do not have a solution to the problem, but I do know that having worked in another profession for over 10 years before becoming a teacher, being professional is as much about the attitude to your work and the way you conduct yourself, as the rules governing your practice and ethics