Education reformers and education policy-makers seem to think they know how to solve the many problems with our education system here in the U.S. I often wonder how many of them have actually spent time in a classroom - not just observing, but actually teaching. I firmly believe that school administrators, education reformers and policy-makers should have a minimum of 5 years in the classroom. Otherwise, how can they really understand what teachers need to help them be successful?
I can't speak for all teachers, but I can think of so many things that would help me be successful at my job. Here are a few.
Teachers need the time to prep, effectively collaborate, reflect on their practice, and watch other teachers in action. We need time to improve and change our practice - it doesn't happen overnight. We also need time off, time away from the students and classrooms in order to do our jobs better. In many countries, teachers only show up for the classes they teach and then can leave school. Imagine that!
The way our evaluation system currently is does not provide feedback that is really helpful, at least not for me. Feedback is often vague, and I have a hard time imagining that 3 ten minute walk-throughs give an adequate view of how my students are learning and of my teaching.
We need support - from each other and from our administrators. We need support in giving us professional days to keep current in our fields. We need emotional support, and we need to know that our administrators have our back. We need them to listen to us, and value us, value our experience.
4. Empathy from others
Sometimes, I can be too empathetic - to my own detriment, because then other people's problems become what I think about when I wake up at 3 AM and can't get back to sleep. I think an overdose of empathy is better than no empathy, though. Once, I had a principal who was also overly empathetic: she would cry with you, laugh with you, feel your emotions with you. Empathetic leaders can be hard to find, but a little empathy goes a long way.
It is the rare Latino that shows up at your house empty-handed. I think we should take that practice to work. All meetings and professional days should have good snacks and food. And coffee. And chocolate.
The way schools in Amherst used to be, word has it, teachers just sort of did what they wanted to and didn't align with others in their fields or in the grades above or below. I can see how that can create confusion and inequities; I understand how alignment benefits our students to some extent. However, I also know that many schools are moving in the direction of expecting teachers to be on the same page in the same text on the same day, taking away every last shred of their independence. If we all get to that point, maybe we can just be replaced by teacher-bots.
I have ranted about this before, but it is SO important. Teachers like to stay current in their fields, and have time to talk to and learn from other teachers. I have had presenters or PD facilitators who are great - and inevitably they are or were teachers. We like to learn from each other, because we have more classroom cred with one another. In my opinion.
8. Less testing
When I first started teaching, I had a few great mentors. It was because of them that I became a better teacher, and thanks to them I was able to process, reflect, and understand my teaching and my students more. They were also teachers. If I could change one thing in my school, it would be to have teachers mentor each other - not just teachers in their first 3 years, but ALL teachers. Do we only need support in our first 3 years? Couldn't we benefit from peer support and feedback all the time? I would rather be evaluated by a colleague than by an administrator.
10. Respectful relationships
Teachers and administrators should be able to have a relationship based on mutual respect, empathy and understanding. In this way, they can work together towards a mutual goal of educating our students academically and emotionally. Once there is trust established, so much more can be accomplished.
What would you add to my list?