Saying No to Peer Pressure

August 19, 2011 at 4:42 PM Leave a comment

Professionals benefit from constructive peer review. On the other hand, teachers calling upon one another to use peer pressure to ensure fellow teachers are up to snuff brings flashbacks of old-fashioned bullying. When compounded by passive aggressive leadership that pits teachers against one another, revival of toxic culture is more likely than reform. True leaders seek positive change and actively intend professional collaboration and review.

After a restless summer of teacher-bashing, budget woes, and discouraging reports from the field, educators are preparing to go back to school, each with renewed commitment to be part of the solution. Something has gone awry, however. In the absence of authentic education reform, well-meaning teachers are trying to fill the void. When talk turns to teachers using peer pressure to make sure their colleagues are up to snuff, it is time for the leaders to step in with a little counterintuitive insight.

Vigilante justice on behalf of students could set education reform back a few decades. A leader with a posse of do-gooders (who, by the way, often got a pass on their own quality review by association) was a hallmark of old-school toxic culture. We have been trying to move forward to a world of objective evaluations and collaboration. Good intentions need to be recognized and commended, of course. But efforts to bypass official channels of supervision should be redirected toward support for the whole team. New forms of evaluation and quality improvement are stressful enough without the distraction of self-appointed standard bearers.

To short circuit this phenomenon, teacher quality programs should formalize a process for peer review as well as professional development to support its implementation. Orientation should address the shared values among staff members, an understanding of roles for each team member, and simulated exercises to explore the process in advance. Constructive peer review can empower professional collaboration while taking the “gotcha” of peer pressure out of the mix.

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Entry filed under: School Leadership, School Transformation, Teacher Effectiveness.

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