A quick teacher voice follow-up

Hey John, I’ve been around the world and I, I, I, I … OK, maybe just to Washington State and Florida, but it feels like I’ve spent more time at the airport than at my own house. The tons of hours I’ve spent learning about the future of education policy (especially as it relates to […]

Hey John,

I’ve been around the world and I, I, I, I … OK, maybe just to Washington State and Florida, but it feels like I’ve spent more time at the airport than at my own house. The tons of hours I’ve spent learning about the future of education policy (especially as it relates to the Common Core) only emphasize the points we’ve been making for years about the need for teacher input.

Recently, I wrote a few tips for teachers at Education Week about improving their teacher voice, mostly met with promotion of their own efforts (OK), but various degrees of trepidation (fair). I’d like to address the second because it matters so much to the progress of this discussion. The truth for so many of our teachers in all sectors of education is that, no matter what their years of experience say about their status in their communities, very few teachers feel protected in their jobs. They’re reluctant to use their teacher voice because they either feel alone in their efforts or they simply fear retribution. I have to respect that; as a new father, getting a reasonable income matters in these odd times.

However, I can’t help but feel some sort of way about the risk/reward dynamic that’s played itself out when it comes to advocacy. As professionals, how long can teachers wait until our profession gets completely stripped away from us? How much will we tolerate policy committees and education panels without so much as a former teacher, much less a current one? How often do we value the opinions of self-proclaimed experts and leaders and don’t look towards ourselves as such?

How many houses have we been asked to build that didn’t ask for our input on the design, no matter what the perils?

I envision the future of the teaching profession as one centered on the expertise of teachers, especially around student needs. As the old cliche goes, “it’s going to get worse before it gets better.” Teachers who feel isolated will have to find spaces where they feel their voices mean something, usually in their unions, or professional organizations (hint: Center for Teaching Quality). They’ll have to sign up for Twitter, Google+, or EdModo. They may even have to create their own blog, even under the guise of a pseudonym, until someone pays attention. Their voices might creek, clank, and crash at first, but eventually, they become attuned to the needs and wants of their colleagues.

Just like ours did, right? Right.

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