Monday, February 21, 2011

Book Giveaway: When Teachers Talk by Rosalyn S. Schnall

This week's giveaway is the sure to be controversial book When Teachers Talk: Principal Abuse of Teachers - The Untold Story by Rosalyn S. Schnall.  Schnall, a retired Chicago Public Schools teacher with thirty-five years under her belt, interviewed five hundred Chicago Public Schools teachers about their experience with principals.  The book contains the results of a survey as well as detailed interviews with many of the participants, most of which relate gruesome stories of horribly incompetent or outright abusive principals.

Schnall's conclusion is sure to stir debate: "principal abuse of power and principal abuse of teachers... may very well be the most significant underlying cause contributing to the decline of public education in America today."  That's quite a statement.

Anyone who's interested in the edreform conversations going on these days would certainly find a lot to think and talk about in this extensive book.  Here are some discussion questions I thought about as I read through it:
  1. Principal abuse of teachers (and principal quality in general) isn't a main focus of the national discussion of education reform and policy.  How do we change that?  Do we need to change that?
  2. There are a lot of good teacher suggested solutions in the book (mostly around more teacher oversight of school leaders and shared power), I'm skeptical that many of them are possible because of the kind of political will and capital that would be needed to pull them off.  How do we overcome that?
  3. Is it fair to focus only on principals?  Wouldn't you find just as much damning evidence about teachers abusing students (or colleagues) within the same group you surveyed?  What about the school district leaders who choose principals and put them in difficult situations?
  4. Is this kind of problem restricted to our profession?  If one were to survey employees in other similarly demanding professions, would we find the same kind of abuse by their superiors?
  5. In the book, Schnall argues principal abuse of teachers as perhaps the most serious issue holding back education in America.  How does this issue rank compared to others cited as serious problems?
Since this book demands discussion and debate, I'd like to give it to someone who would discuss the issues it raises with other educators--teachers, principals, school leaders, etc.  Email by 11:59 pm CST tonight and tell me who you would like to discuss this with (and why).  One lucky reader will receive the book (if you've won anything from me since giveaways started in January, you're not eligible for this one).

Good luck!

Thanks to Phenix & Phenix Literary Publicists for providing a review copy of this book.