(image generated at redkid.net)
As a principal and school director, I've spent most of the last decade trying to understand and implement the highly-qualified provisions of No Child Left Behind.
Let me suggest a different metric. I want more high-maintenance teachers. According to common usage, a high-maintenance person is one who requires extra attention and has little tolerance for discomfort. He or she is royal. We sometimes call one of my daughters HM because it works well for both "Her Majesty" and "High Maintenance." The original high maintenance character was probably the princess who couldn't sleep over a pea, but let's be clear that lots of men are high maintenance too.
As I define it, a high maintenance teacher is like a overachieving salesperson or a prima donna athlete. They have talent. They deliver. They have an ego that precedes and proceeds from their accomplishments. They are the achieving elite. I could list a bunch that have worked for me, and I'd bet they'd all admit to the label.
High maintenance teachers are a little different. They are hard to manage, but easy to love. I have led a whole bunch of high maintenance teachers in my day, and I'd like to think I was one once. Here's why we need more high maintenance teachers and more flexibility to keep them happy.
HM teachers have high standards. The expect a lot out of themselves, their students and their school. Because they have high standards, they don't suffer fools—in the classroom or in the principal's office.
HM teachers are impatient for excellence. They want their students to perform. They demand their colleagues work hard. They constantly propose improvements, challenge practices and generally agitate for something better.
HM teachers are critical. They are often wickedly smart and cynical, so they sharpen the colleagues and leaders who work around them. If you can gain the respect and partnership of a high maintenance teacher, you have a powerful ally.
HM teachers deliver. They are crusty, edgy, quirky, and unpredictable, but their students learn and thrive. A staff of high maintenance teachers will wear you out, but they will make your school a better place.
I'm sure there are lots of downsides to the high maintenance personality. They can be unforgiving opponents and potent threats to teacher morale. But they are an excellent barometer for the strength of leadership. My perfect staff would be a mix of solid and diligent teachers seasoned with fresh prospects and a generous sprinkling of high maintenance educators. My students and colleagues might not always like it, but they would learn.
Please support educational leaders when we ask for more flexibility to select, schedule, pay and praise our best teachers. If they really are the kind of high maintenance teachers we need, a single-lane salary system and traditional school schedule won't be enough to keep them in the profession.