Eighty years ago, American scholar Willard Walter Waller (1899–1945) published his landmark book, The Sociology of Teaching (1932). The book describes a number of underlying conditions affecting teachers and their profession, including the despotic school organizations in which they work.
Waller claimed that “the reformation of the schools must begin with the teachers”—a proclamation still not heeded today by most policymakers and self-proclaimed reformers. As a nation we have not learned much from the erudite insights of sociologists like Waller.
My teaching colleague Renee Moore describes how the “frazzled teachers” working in underperforming schools are beset by duplicative as well as conflicting reform programs layered on top of one another. Renee writes of today’s “big grant” reform agenda always coming with “its own curriculum materials, pacing guides, seemingly endless reporting requirements, and a troop of expert consultants.”
Is it not time, as Renee suggests, to elevate teachers, working with parents and students, to lead the transformation (not just the reform) of the education system? Doing so will require a whole new way of organizing schools and developing and supporting teacher leaders (and teacherpreneurs), some of whom will teach students regularly while also having time, space, and reward to analyze evidence, figure out which poorly designed programs to abandon, and create their own TeacherSolutions.