Why Don’t Those Teachers Own Their Profession Already?

Hypothetically speaking, let’s say a subset of all teachers decided to go against their district’s wishes, teaching their curriculum according to a mix of research and expertise, but masking it under the name of the latest district buzzword. Would you blame them for not outright fighting against their administration’s wishes or congratulate them for “owning” their profession?

Of course, that’s a trick question because it largely depends on your lens.

One of the larger problems with the idea of owning the teaching profession is the idea of ownership and the power structure of what it means to own. Men (and I do say men on purpose) get on podiums and demand teachers to stop complaining and own their profession, assuming that, with all things equal, teachers can just take the reins of the job with equal regard for their own autonomy and federal / state / district requirements.

Umm, not so much.

If anything, this is a patriarchial view of things. Questions like “Why don’t teachers own their profession?”, “Why are teachers just letting this happen?” or “Why are teachers finally becoming awake to what’s happening?” strips us, intentionally or otherwise, of our own agency, as if we didn’t either individually or collectively resist when necessary (and didn’t get fired often for doing so). In the long history of this thing we call “revolt” or whatever have you, people often had to do things underhandedly in order to build up to moments of more overt protest. Creative and masked, teachers have always found ways to do their best given the circumstances. Trends like “the workshop model,” “differentiation,” and “multiple intelligences” have come and gone and haven’t worked, but, somehow, teachers keep teaching, not because they’ve sat there and taken it, but because they’ve found ways to use their experience to make it work for them.

As such, ownership in the profession assumes two things: a) teachers don’t already feel like they have a stake in their jobs or b) the current “owners” of education, specifically schooling, would willingly give up more than a minority sharehold of their ownership in this. Under paradigm a, which too many people on many sides of the argument work from, teachers are simply objects in the work of education, working without any tangible value for ourselves, all for the owners. Under paradigm b, which some also work from, people shift the idea of “ownership” on teachers, as if we don’t want to do the best jobs possible, have a voice in how we operate, and be seen as experts in our craft.

The answers are much more difficult. Perhaps writing about us from a cushion in an ivory tower or a beach house works for some, but it won’t work for me. If you’d like our opinions on ownership, ask us. Otherwise, asking the aforementioned questions, regardless of intent, only makes you as good as the people who you seek to work against.

Own up to that.

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