…Do something

As if to answer the question I raised in my last post, I came across this comment by James (aka Mr. J, of The Mind Prepares) on a really great discussion over at The Faculty Room,:

I too have observed how decisions are made on the state and national level, yet it is the teacher in the trenches that has to find ways to implement them. That is one of the reasons I left teaching in the public schools because eventually they were going to catch me dancing around their rules and teaching my students the way I knew would work. I satisfied them by raising the test scores but I did it without their curriculum. Now, due the the bureaucracy, I teach in a private school where I am allowed to do things my way and still keep everything above board.

My question to others about “The Frontline” is: what are we going to do about it? I grew tired of complaining and made a lateral move that only benefits me and the select few students I teach. My state’s teacher’s union is weak and bogged down in their own ridiculous politics, out politicians talk a good game before election season and then suffer from memory loss after. I am tired of complaining and rubbing my woes with others, or closing my classroom door to “do my thing”, or making idle threats of leaving the profession. So I ask other teachers: what are we going to do about it?

James asks the right question: What are we going to do about it?

A good start might be: “A Call to Leadership: An Open Letter to America’s National Board Certified Teachers” contained within a recent report on National Board Certification released by the Center for Teaching Quality. Written by ten of my colleagues here at Teacher Leader Network who are also NBCTs, the full report is their analysis of the spate of reports released recently on the effectiveness of National Board teachers. Although the letter (pgs. 11-13) is addressed specifically to Board Certified teachers, I think there is much in it that all good teachers can agree upon and DO to move us from a place of just complaining or leaving, to one of actually taking charge of our profession.

The authors argue: “It is time for us to begin leading from the classroom, to be our own best advocates for positive change — for policies and practices we know from experience will work. We cannot wait to be invited to the policy table. Nor can we wait for any organization or initiative to guide us, endorse us, or train us. We invite their support, but we must begin at once to find our own voices, to hone our core messages, and develop our own leadership ideas and muscle, both personally and collectively” (12).

They offer six specific steps teachers can take, without permission, to help change both the perception and the reality of the teaching profession. I especially like the last suggestion: “Design our own collaborative experiences for professional learning and leadership development, creating a robust vision of what it means to be an effective teacher leader and pursuing that vision together” (13).

Another of my favorite bloggers, Ted Nellen of CyberEnglish, shared this quotation (which he also uses with his students and in his signature):

You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” —Buckminister Fuller

While I slightly disagree with Fuller, (I don’t believe we can change things just by fighting the existing reality), it is within our power to build new models of how to shape policy, how to prepare teachers, how to assess what students know and what teachers do. We have the means and the mediums now to build such models; do we have the will?