SCUSD Observer

Sacramento, California

Archive for the ‘Area 6 Candidates’ Category

The hinge the door swings on in education is the teacher

Commentary by Robert Bartron
Candidate for District 6 representative to the SCUSD School Board


The United States Marine Corps is known worldwide as a superior and ultra-effective force for good. When right must be defended or those in need must be quickly helped or a tough fight is thrown on us, our first reply is, “Send in the Marines!”

The Marine Corps is different from the other services because it has never been and never will be built around the newest weapon systems or high-tech gadgetry. The Marines have always been built around the Marine on the ground. All equipment, air power, armor, organization and supplies all have only one rationale for their existence. They exist to support the Marine carrying the rifle. Give a Marine a bayonet and a pistol and we expect him to win wars. We expect this because they are Marines. The Corps has always been successful because everything in it is there to support the grunt on the ground.

The Marine Corps organizational attitude is a good model for education. Everything in education should be built around the needs of the teachers. Teachers are the only persons in the education establishment that are in the classroom working with individual students. All supplies, equipment, technology, administrators, staff, bureaucrats, policies and programs should have only one rationale for their existence. They are there to support the one person in the whole system who does the job of daily defeating ignorance and inspiring success—the teacher. Give full support to teachers and students learn more and succeed. Weak support for what teachers need yields weakly prepared students. The hinge the door swings on in education is the teacher. Let me repeat that important concept: education should not be student focused; it should be teacher focused. Give the teacher support and basic tools and they can change the world. Deny the teacher the tools he/she needs and burden them with duties and bureaucracy not directly related to teaching and we will continue to lose the war against ignorance.

There are three connected words that are used in successful organizational models, whether it is in business or the military or education: Responsibilities, Authority, and Accountability. A person is given responsibilities to meet; plus the authority to meet those responsibilities; and then he/she is held accountable to properly use that authority to meet the responsibilities. Currently we give teachers great responsibilities, but then we undermine their authority to meet these. We also fail to understand how to properly hold teachers accountable for their performance. (Notice I said their performance and not the students’ achievements. Please see my discussion below about techniques on how to hold teachers accountable.) The purpose of the school board, superintendent and the school principal is to approach every situation with the understanding that they must support the teacher—to include the teacher’s authority. Of course, it is also the School Board’s, superintendent’s and school principal’s job to hold teachers accountable to use the authority correctly and consequently meet their responsibilities.

To restate the above paragraph in blunt terms: the Board, Superintendent, and principal should always support the teacher when students, parents or politicians are on the other side of an issue. Of course, if the teacher is wrong, then the teacher must be held accountable. But the automatic first attitude should always be to back-up the teacher. Only if investigation reveals the teacher is in the wrong should the attitude switch to correction or, if need be, just and quick punishment for the teacher. In too many instances, administrators are intimidated by the threat of lawsuits and/or bad publicity and first assume the teacher is guilty until proven innocent. This is no way to fulfill the primary responsibility to support the teachers.

In summary, center education on supporting effective teachers in daily classroom teaching and great student success will be achieved. The teacher is there to teach and everything and everyone else in education is there to support the teacher meet this mission.


Written by scusdobserver

July 31, 2010 at 7:33 am