Sunday, June 20, 2010

New Principal To Clean Up School--Starting With The Walls, Then With Teacher Appearance

You've got to give the guy credit for trying to make an immediate impact:

Can deep-cleaning a school and adding a teacher dress code help students learn better?

That's the question of the moment at Hiram Johnson High School, where teachers this week found themselves tossing out posters, art projects and learning materials to meet a Monday deadline for clearing their classrooms.

It's all part of newly hired Principal Felisberto Cedros' plan to reverse the school's negative image. Task one: appearance. Task two: achievement...

"Is it about cleanliness, no," Cedros said. "It's a part of the package deal of setting a tone for the environment."

That package includes a stricter dress code for teachers – no jeans, shorts, tennis shoes or T-shirts – which he told staff he is "absolutely adamant about."

"So, do not go there with me, because you will lose," Cedros told a room full of teachers at a tense staff meeting on Thursday.

I have peers who come to school dressed, in my opinion, more appropriate for the beach than for school. Then again, even I wear jeans and tennis shoes on Fridays.

He's also tackling the school's block schedule; such schedules are not good academically, and I support his getting rid of it:

At the Thursday staff meeting, he asked teachers whether the school should revert to a traditional schedule instead of operating in two-hour blocks as it has for several years.

"The question I am posing to you, I already know the answer," Cedros said.

After a discussion at times confrontational, he asked teachers for proof that the current schedule works. However, he also said poor test scores are proof enough.

He's certainly not sparing anyone's feelings, is he?

There are a couple of ways of approaching this. He could either be the Joe Clark that the school needs, and knows how to get from here to there, or he can be nothing more than a bully who gets his jollies by imposing his will on others, whether or not the results are good or not.

I guess time will tell.


Bolder Tutor said...

Wow! Fabulous is my first thought.

One of the things we learned about in my master's program is how important it is for the teacher to be organized and professional. The students really do see when you aren't and our society is definitely getting lax in the area of dress codes.

Finally, someone who does research on ALL the data and not just the "trends" put forth by certain educational groups. From the research I have seen, it has been shown that the block scheduling is not beneficial for students.

Thank you for sharing. I enjoy reading your blog.

Mrs. Widget said...

Makes sense to me.

If you are doing "new" things everything should be new, the mind set is helped if things are new.

Heck just a new coat of paint can help.

With the block scheduling, as I've said, "If what we have always done isn't working, its time to try something new."

Curmudgeon said...

Both reforms are appropriate. Neither will go over well.

Teacher appearance is a good place to start. Even the local mechanic has a uniform of sorts. Your doctor wears a shirt and tie or everyone loses faith in his diagnoses. Those who show up to consultation in scrubs do themselves no favors unless they are honestly coming from the operating room.

Block scheduling and lower achievement go hand in hand. This perversion of the ways that kids learn must go. It has always amused me that people complain about kids losing knowledge over the summer, and then they throw in an extra six months off. Or they demand interdisciplinary work but forget that the science and math classes are in different semesters.

BAH. It's just a way for lazy teachers to have smaller student loads.

Steve USMA '85 said...

In the eyes of the teachers, parents, & public; he is Joe Clark if he gets results and just a bully if he doesn't.

High School Tchr said...

Going through change is rough, and I have the mental bumps and bruises to prove it. My school has been going through "reform" for the last three years at the hands of a principal who at times seems nothing more than an egomaniacal(sp?) tyrant. The up side? It did get rid of some teachers that were no longer being effective in the classroom, and needed to retire. And.....we raised our math scores on our state's standardized test by 26%.

The down side? We also lost some very good teachers in the process. And, with all this change, we lost school spirit, traditions, and the school's identity, and became a school that "teaches to the test".
And the kids graduating from my school are in no way prepared for the real world.

There needs to be a balance of changing what is not working, but leaving alone what is working. Too many leaders today make changes for all in order to solve a problem caused by a few. I don't agree with this rationale. But, then I also feel the weakest and worst teachers tend to go into administration, and bring with them poor leadership skills.

Darren said...

Commenter Steve hit the nail on the head.

I don't know if dressing up matters or not. I don't know if there are any valid studies out there that show that dressing "as for Cancun" impacts student performance. My gut impression, though, tells me it's not professional, though. In what other profession do people dress in shorts, t-shirts, and flip flops?

Jeans and tennis shoes can, if neat, still present a good appearance. But I recognize that you've got to bend the willow a lot if you want it to stay bent a little.

maxutils said...

I'm torn on this one. Anyone who wants to get rid of a block schedule immediately wins points in my book . . .but teacher dress code? It's not as simple as wearing a tie, or slacks. I know, because I've done it both ways. When I began teaching, in my first three years, I bought in to the 'set the tone' argument -- and I usually wore a tie, and never shorts, and rarely jeans, despite the fact that I could. The kids, in both the junior high I taught at first, and the high school I moved to, were absolutely unimpressed, and I had more behavior problems in those three years than I did in my next ten . . . when I started wearing shorts, jeans, and Hawaiian shirts, t shirts, and jerseys. Some of that, I'm sure, comes from being more experienced -- but the more casual manner of dress definitely reflected my personality better, and my students seemed to, buy in to it. Dressing everyone up nicely, may have an initial impact upon the kids of, "Wow -- they mean business now -- they're wearing ties!" but, in my experience, there is no single way to get the kids to buy in -- which is what you really want. when I wear a tie, I immediately ring false, and I know it. Other teachers would look similarly wrong wearing shorts. The students pick up on these things. The unfortunate thing is, this principal is obviously one who needs a tie to make himself seem credible and important. . .but at least he has the people skills to make up for it.

Darren said...

Your "authenticity" argument makes some sense to me. But is there no middle ground between beachwear and suits?

You know what I wear to school, max, and I think I cover that middle ground well.

maxutils said...

You do. And, it fits your personality. That's the key . . . and I would never suggest you dress down more. I found something that works for me, and as long as it's working, it should be left alone.

maxutils said...

And, I hadn't read it yet . . . but I just noticed that I made almost the same argument that you did in your 'Washington Uniform' post. Kudos for consistency.

Darren said...

I'm not sure it's the same point at all, as there *should* be a difference between teachers and 16-year-old boys. Additionally, no one is suggesting that teachers wear only black suits and flashy ties; in fact, the principal isn't even suggesting suits and ties. He's setting a minimum standard, not a maximum.

Darren said...

I have put more thought into this agree that I *am* being consistent--in both posts, I'm arguing for moderation.

Ellen K said...

Teachers need a dress code. The reason is that in our society so much has been tossed aside that many young teachers come into the profession not knowing how to establish boundaries. Dressing in something other than your students would wear has a way of doing that. In some schools they go further saying that teachers must wear school shirts and appropriate dark pants or skirts. We are not allowed to have tattoos that show. No facial piercings in students or teachers. On Fridays teachers can wear blue jeans with a spirit shirt from any team or organization. Men must have collars on their shirts. I wish we didn't have to have such rules but as it's said, common sense isn't all that common. A few years back we had a teacher who wore black lace shirts. A very young teacher. She was offended when her mentor suggested less revealing attire. This same teacher later complained about male students making comments. They're teenagers, what did she expect? On a more serious note, if teachers dress less like their students perhaps there would be fewer highly publicized teacher/student "relationships" hitting the media.

Ronnie said...

A teacher earns respect through two sources, their ability to impart knowledge to students and their ability to keep students engaged while imparting that knowledge. Having had both you and maxutils as teachers I can say that both of you had your unique ways of carrying out those tasks but your clothing didn't influence my respect, and likely had little effect on anyone else. You can effectively teach in a suit, a polo shirt with jeans, or a hockey jersey and shorts. When it comes down to it, in the long term clothing should not be a barrier or factor in respect.

maxutils said...

Thank you, Ronnie. I believe I can speak for Darren when I say the respect is mutual.

Ellen K, you're making a bit of a leap going from casual attire to inappropriate relationships with students. In fact, I think I can make an equally good case that dressing up might increase their incidence, since it better delineates the power differential, which I've been told lies at the hear of many a statutory rape case. I will grant you that the differentiation grants you at least a head start . . . but in the end, it's really more sizzle than steak. That said -- revealing clothing shouldn't be allowed in any event. You can't have a standard that is more risque for teachers than students; that's a different thing altogether.

allen (in Michigan) said...

One of my pet beefs about the public education system is that education doesn't matter, i.e. education is subordinated to all sorts of other considerations like scheduling, organization, personnel, etc. and that shows up in the kids as indifference. Hey, if it doesn't matter to the adults why should it matter to the kids?

Therefor, anything that can be done to prevent the formation of that conclusion or to fight it if it's already formed is important. A mundane way to set the stage for the assumption of importance of education is to dress the part. Any shmoe can put on a jacket and tie and look the part of master pedagogue. Doing so is one small indication of the importance of the process.

Obviously there are folks whose talents obviate the need for stage dressing and in an organization that places results above stage dressing the exceptional performer would be accommodated. Just as obviously, stage-dressing isn't enough. If you dress for the part you better be able to play the part.

maxutils said...

Allen, I agree with you in principle, but after thirteen years of having every teacher generated suggestion be shot down because "We'd have to change the bus schedule", I am very aware of how I rank in the educational pecking order. Unfortunately,you also can't accommodate the exceptional while requiring stage dressing of the others . . . just ask the San Francisco Giants. I'm content to rely on my skill, knowledge, and personality. Put me in different clothes, and I'm not the same person, and I'm not better for it.