Thursday, February 3, 2011

What Motivates Us?

As a Florida educator, my life's work has been dedicated toward providing children with a quality education in which to build a prosperous life full of options. As a classroom inclusion teacher, I worked tirelessly with each of my students, regardless of their exceptionally, socio- economic situation, or home life to reach their fullest potential. And, as a current Instructional Coach, I dedicate my time toward guiding professional growth and learning amongst our nearly 90 teachers to improve classroom practice and student achievement. My work and that of my colleagues matters. In fact, it may be the most important thing we ever do.

The fire that was ignited in me as a young teacher still burns strongly. I continue to think that anything can be changed and decisions in the best interest of students and teachers will prevail. Some are cynical, they have lost hope, but in the interest of my own two boys and the thousands of children that walk through our school doors each year, I simply can't and won't give up. Maybe, I'm acting like a cornered pitbull ready to fight, but I have hope for the future of public school education in Florida.

I don't move with a blindly optimistic attitude toward the future. I will admit that I'm fearful of poor decisions left in the hand of politicians which could cripple our profession. The writing appears to be on the wall with Senate Bill 6. Legislators without any classroom experience, never walking a mile in our shoes, will likely make a decision this year that will push the best, brightest, and most noble out of our profession. The bill erases teachers' pay on years of experience and advance degrees, and proposes to pay teachers based on their students' state test scores collected in just a few days of the 180 they are in attendance. Wanting to hold teachers fully accountable for their students learning, they overlook circumstances beyond our control.

Merit pay would rid the profession not of the poor teachers but of the exceptional ones. Some who serve our neediest learners, our learning disabled children, our non-English speaking students. Teachers who tutor on their own time, offer Tiered Interventions at every turn, buy classroom supplies when the schools can't afford to supply them, and spend hours upon hours on weeknights and weekends planning quality lessons. These are the teachers that will be most frustrated and dishonored.

For the past thirteen years, I've been serving at Chets Creek, and some of our most amazing teachers never receive the small portion of merit pay that is currently passed out. dayle timmons, a life-long Special Education teacher and 2004 Florida Teacher of the Year has never qualified for merit pay. The current merit pay system is broken and unfair. Senate Bill 6 will only escalate and intensify the problems. Educators see the glaring flaws; Senate Bill 6 may destroy the Florida teaching profession.

I work in a school with transcendent purpose and complete collegiality; We set out each and every day to change the world, one child at a time, having no doubt that we can and will achieve our goals. Embracing every child regardless of their circumstances is our moral calling, and we have the creative and innovative teachers, that with the right level of support, can reach them all. A learning organization led by a principal who implicitly trusts her teachers as professionals and gives them the autonomy needed to produce impressive qualitative and quantitative results. Just looking at our state test scores only marginally gives you a picture of who we are and what our teachers and children can achieve. Looking five years down the road, I wonder if this will be the same learning community utopia of today. It seems like our funds are drying up and our hands are being tied. Will a school like mine, full of passionate dedicated and exceptional teachers, be here for the unborn child of my principal? Or, instead will the best and brightest flee local private schools or other professions?

Politicians pass laws every year, they claim to base decisions on research. I'm wondering whether they would be supporting Senate Bill 6 if they watched this Daniel Pink video which highlights the conclusions of studies done by economists and psychologists who explain, "When the profit motive gets unmoored from the purpose motive, bad things happen." If you really want to make a change in an organization, pay people enough to take money off the table. When money is off the table that is when people can think about the work. The research shows that the best results are achieved by people who are motivated, and what they are motivated by are autonomy, mastery, and purpose. Our Florida children deserve teachers who are motivated to improve student achievement by these motivations. Merit pay will not promote the collegiality our profession needs to make significant improvements.

This video is worth every minute and I hope you will leave me a comment with your thoughts or connections.


Dee Dee Tamburrino said...

"Pay people enough so that they're not thinking about the money and thinking about the work."

That is one of the most profound statements I have ever heard. Can you imagine the global impact that one premise would have if management actually took it to heart and applied it in the workplace?

To be honest, I never made the connection between the students dayle has poured her life into on a daily basis for the past three decades and her lack of a monetary reward for doing so. Unbelievable.

Chascinc said...

This is where building relationships makes a difference. My students are not motivated toward higher level thinking by a reward that has monetary value. They want to please us. They want to connect with us. They want our friendship. Thanks for this, it inspired my blog post of the week.

Ashley Russell said...

I enjoyed reading this post and watching the video. Thank you for shedding light on this important issue about the state of the educational system in Florida.