To Explo and Elective Teachers, I’ve Failed You

Elective and Explo Teachers I've Failed You |
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I’ll just come right out and say it–to all of the elective and exploratory subject teachers with whom I’ve worked over the years, as a school administrator I’ve failed you.  And miserably too.

Trying to answer to all the legislative mandates, rules, and regulations that have placed such heavy emphasis on core subjects; professional learning community and small learning team meetings using data from core subject classes; special education IEP compliance and progress monitoring of goals generally within core subject areas…I find myself virtually ignoring elective and exploratory teachers.

I promise I don’t play favorites.  I definitely don’t think you’re invisible.  And I certainly don’t discredit your subject-matter.

And here’s the worst part…I’ve even made a recent effort to fix this and communicate and collaborate evenly with elective teachers.

Yeah, that lasted all of one day.

This morning, our high school students had to complete various district-mandated assessments which called for students to miss their morning classes, both core and electives.  But did the elective teachers know that?  Nope.  Well, in fairness they did find out during 2nd hour.  Unfortunately it was just a bit too late, eh?

I can probably hold you captive for several hours sharing the various incidents of failed communication and collaboration with elective teachers.  But, you’ll have to take my word for it.

So to my elective teachers, I commit myself from this day forward, to evenly communicate and collaborate with you.  I already have a rather solid personal relationship with these teachers, but I have been working differently with them as well.  To some, it may appear disrespectful, disregarding, and disingenuous.

I will spend much more time in your classrooms.  I will provide feedback, input, and ideas.  I will listen and value your suggestions.  I will gain more instructional resources for your classes.  And I will definitely do my absolute-best to respect your subject area as I would any core subject.

You may be skeptical.  And I understand.  But give me time.  Hold me accountable.

Just don’t ask me to play basketball when I’m wearing my dress shoes.  I lose several inches from my vertical!

This blog entry was also posted at James Brauer’s blog, Connected Educators.


  1. Sara Womack said:

    As a music teacher and aspiring administrator, I appreciate your honesty and realization that you are slighting an entire population of teachers, as well as their subject area’s impact on student learning, but it’s probably an approach that most special area teachers are accustomed to. Parents, other teachers, and society consistently demonstrate a disregard and disrespect towards our subject areas. Your bravery to be an administrator that appreciates and acts with a respect toward our profession is heralded as a model to your faculty that the arts and other electives are “real” subject areas that teach important and relevant concepts to all students.

    October 21, 2011
    • James Brauer said:

      Sara, thanks for the response and “going easy on me!” ; )

      What makes this blog entry and professional-reality rough for me, is that before entering administration I was a SPED teacher and have always been active in various fine arts. You’d think with my background, experiences, and preferences that I would herald and indirectly show support for elective subjects more than I do.

      This blog entry was inspired not just by my own critical reflection of myself, but having spoken with various others that are elective teachers at different schools. Sadly, I noticed an immediate trend.

      October 21, 2011
  2. Kirsten Surprenant said:

    Why do we continue to use the terms “core” and “elective”? In my school electives are referred to as “specials”.

    Aren’t all subject areas “core”? Teachers and administrators need to redefine the terms and stop placing higher value on one subject area over another.

    Art, music, health, physical education, world language are essential in today’s world, they are essential elements of life long learning, and they are essential in meeting learning styles and needs of all students.

    October 21, 2011
    • James Brauer said:

      Interesting comment Kirsten.

      Semantics can lend some insight toward individuals’ “real feelings” after all. I have a feeling those most guilty of “categorizing” subjects may be our very own–practicing educators.

      All states have graduation requirements, comprised of various subjects. Most of these states (if not all) don’t label them “core” and “elective,” instead they call them by their actual subject name and list their corresponding number of credits needed to graduate.

      I like the idea of morphing the name from “electives/exploratory classes” to “essentials.” That has s great ring to it!

      October 21, 2011
  3. Sara Womack said:

    James, thanks for the heads up! As I enter the world of administration, I will remember that many people have fallen into the same trap of not recognizing all subject areas in the same manner. I will break that mold!

    October 21, 2011
    • James Brauer said:

      I have a strong feeling that most administrators don’t make a conscientious decision to work with different subjects in different ways, but it still happens. The positive aspect is recognizing this possibility and taking steps to avoid it from becoming reality.

      Now let’s go break that mold together!

      October 21, 2011
  4. Ellen Sears said:

    As an art teacher for 30+ years (I’ve also taught Math and Reading) I am well aware of the caste system in our school. Titles don’t mean much – we have changed from Related Arts to Essential Arts with little change. I have to ask – what difference does it make what subject I teach? I teach children. I believe that every adult that is responsible for the well-being/education/welfare of a child should have access to the same information. It’s just a common courtesy. Maybe if the question “have all adults been updated” then it won’t have to be a conscientious decision to not work with different subjects in different ways – or assistants, cafeteria, housekeeping, office….

    October 31, 2011

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