Sunday, March 28, 2010

Shades of Teaching

I first heard the word "hybrid" in biology class in tenth grade. For some reason, there is a pea in my memory that has two different hues of green. But have I ever heard of a "hybrid pea"? Maybe hybrid corn? And more recently...hybrid car?

But as an educator I never thought about a hybrid position, until this year, when I was assigned to do two jobs at once. Back to that later...

The Metlife Survey of the American Teacher: Collaborating for Student Success has released the third part, "Teaching as a Career." In it, more than half of the teachers (56%) surveyed and half of the principals (49%) report that teachers in their schools combine part-time classroom teaching with other roles in their school or district and four in ten teachers say they are interested in such a position. Hybrid teaching roles are particularly appealing to new teachers (46%) and those who are less than satisfied with their current careers (42%).

I have been a strong advocate for looking at schools differently. We need to think about scheduling, grading, and school calendars in a way that doesn't replicate the past one hundred years of public school. In the same way, we need to look at teaching in ways that capitalize on the strengths of our educators without overburdening them with too many duties. Here are my thoughts on hybrid positions in education:

On the positive side, any job in education, from the school custodian to the superintendent, would be more meaningful if part of the day is spent with kids. Plain and simple. They're the reason we're all there, and they make it worth the long hours. Spending time in a classroom of students also is the best way to maintain credibility with other educators. How many times have we heard teachers say that Central Office staff members don't "get it" because they aren't in a classroom? In addition to credibility, being in a classroom also is important so that the educator's views are authentic and not based on what they remember about teaching or hear from colleagues.

At the same time, hybrid roles can be difficult. Take mine, for example. I am currently the Literacy Coach for my school and the Beginning Teacher Mentor for my district. Suffice it to say that my two 50% jobs are really two 100% (or more) jobs and that I feel that neither the teachers I should be coaching nor the teachers I should be mentoring are being served as they should. Luckily, my administrators are eager to look at ways to make my "jobs" more doable next year.

A common mistake I see when hybrid roles are developed occurs when teachers are pulled to do administrative/Central Office-type jobs but are paid teacher salaries. I have seen numerous "teacher-on-loan" style positions where the work is overwhelming, but the pay isn't higher. Educators must be compensated for the work they do as professionals, and school districts need to resist the urge to get "cheap help" from teachers they can pull from classrooms.

As for my job... it's true, my roles do utilize two of my passions - literacy and beginning teacher support; so in that way, it's perfect for me. That's what we should focus on when it comes to hybrid positions: begin by looking at educator strengths....then continue by planning a schedule that's feasible and capitalizes on what's best for kids. And the finishing touch is a salary that's commensurate with the work.

It should be like that pea - different shades...but still a pea.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

What a better way to say it...are we about to start hybrid learners too? You know, those students who can text-message, take notes while creating You-tube clips for the biology lesson on cell division? If hybrid teacher positions have been created then what is next?