Whose Profession is This Anyway?

It’s the last day of our CTQ Teacher Advisory Board Summit, and I’m encouraged. I’ve been connected with CTQ for almost 10 years, and have watched the idea of bringing the expertise of teachers to the forefront of education reform and policy come closer to reality.

What’s been most amazing about this particular gathering is the willingness on the part of the staff to stay out of the way, and let us teacher leaders actually make decisions about which way the organization should go. You have to have been a classroom teacher and know how ignored and humiliated we have been in the educational decision-making process to appreciate how unique this is.

The Summit has also been one more opportunity for me to exchange ideas with other teacherpreneurs. As one teacher colleague mentioned, when we first coined the phrase, teacherpreneur, there was much trepidation and negative feedback. After all, why should teachers expect what we do to have measurable value, why should we be seen as the experts or the innovators in education…we’re just the hired help. Or, according to many so-called education reformers, we are THE problem in education.

CTQ founder, Barnett Berry, has taken flack over the years for his vision of promoting teacher voice, and building a way to do that. Barnett had a comfortable life in higher ed as a researcher and tenured professor. He easily could have sat back, kicked up his feet in a corner office with a window at the university, and done what so many others have done—spend his career studying and talking about teachers and what we should do. Instead, he made the choice to stand with teachers, and develop a vehicle to bring the expertise of outstanding teachers to its rightful place. Not to over-glorify, but I believe in giving credit where it is due.

Despite this good work and some other notable (and sadly rare) examples, the time has come across the field of education for teachers ourselves to take charge of our own profession. It’s time to stop waiting for others to give us permission, give us opportunities, or give us our due.  Warning: Teaching is the largest profession in the U.S., and as we become more vocal, we may also find how different we really are.

Nancy Flanagan just wrote about some examples of what is being called giving teachers voice, and questions when is it really authentic, especially if the teacher has a message that is not what those sponsoring the platform / event / outlet wanted to hear. Along with the increasing social media activism of teachers, several important education organizations are (finally) starting to show signs of teachers taking leadership rather than waiting to be invited.

Am I the only one seeing evidence we may be well on the way to just such a shift?