I leave school everyday feeling like a failure. Sure, I need grit. That, or a martini.
My teaching skills rock. Ten-thousand hours? I’ve logged 50,000. Though I constantly look to refine my skills, as I look down the list of the TeachingWorks high-leverage practices, I am adept at all of them and attend to most every day.
Yet, even on my best days when my students have wrestled with challenging, interesting material, engaged in problem solving, and had fun while they did it; I know I’ve let them down. Though I usually glean helpful information about what my students know and can do, I often cannot provide enough timely feedback, (to my students or their parents) or formally assess their growth toward a standard, or submit enough for the program review, or spend a minute with that kid I know had a fight with a parent last night. This list changes depending on the day, but what never changes is that sick feeling in my stomach as I walk to my car. It is never enough.
I do not give short shrift to these things because I am incompetent or because I do not value them; I neglect them because I am exhausted. I do what I can to balance what I know to be best for my students with the time I have to give them, yet these kids deserve so much more. Unlike the policy makers and the local educational leadership, I look each of my students in the eye every day, knowing that I have let them down. We form deep bonds with our kids, and this dance with inadequacy is excruciating.
There is no issue more urgent than the professionalization of teaching. No longer sages on the stage or glorified baby-sitters or well-meaning women who love kids, we must demand working conditions and supports that enable us to actually do the whole job parents and communities have enlisted us to do. Brain research and advancements in educational research have shown how we might transform our classrooms. We know too much about what good teaching looks like to accept any less.
Right now, we can:
- Transform our teacher preparation programs to reflect what we know,
- Advocate for the thoughtful implementation of the Common Core State Standards, including appropriate assessments and evaluation systems,
- Encourage our master teachers to earn National Board certification to refine their practice and support a high level of competency nation-wide.
- Support all teachers as learners and leaders though teacher-led communities like CTQ’s Collaboratory and others,
- Showcase teachers’ ideas by publishing their work for myriad audiences, and
- Work with our local unions, departments of education, standards boards, and independent organizations like Kentucky’s Prichard Committee to change the policies and archaic school configurations that trap teachers in this cycle of failure.
Teacherpreneurs, master teachers with release time, can make progress toward these solutions, and offer other teachers support to refine their practice and build an effective, professional teaching core. Every teacher can contribute to this revolution. We need to cultivate an army of us. It will make all of us better, stronger, and more able to meet the needs of all of our students – and ourselves.
Photo of room 16 at Western Hills High School by Lauren Hill
This is cross-posted from my original blog on Ed Week: Pubic Engagement and Ed Reform