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You May Say That I'm a Dreamer . . .


Imagine . . .

What if classroom teachers were acknowledged as experts on what teachers should know and be able to do?

What if classroom teachers were critical partners in determining the quality of teacher preparation?

What if classroom teachers worked alongside university faculty as colleagues?

What if classroom teachers really did find a place at the table?

You may say that I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one… because two things happened this week that were beyond my dreams a couple of years ago.

On Thursday, my TeacherSolutions partners from The Center for Teaching Quality -- Nancy Flanagan, Patrick Ledesma, and Andy Kuemmel -- sat in the Sam Rayburn Building on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, briefing policymakers on the research we did about the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. The trio represented our 10-person NBCT research team (and NBCT voices from across the country) in making the case for the value and continuing importance of a national standard for accomplished teaching.

Our report, Measuring What Matters: The Effects of National Board Certification on Advancing 21st Century Teaching and Learning is a meta-analysis of the voluminous NBCT impact research, from the perspective of teachers who have earned the credential. With support from the Center for Teaching Quality, we spent many months studying the research and participating in live on-line discussions with top teacher quality scholars across the country (something I never dreamed I would do) before drafting our research and policy suggestions. I wish I could have been there with them to share the fruits of our work.

Instead, I was on the West Coast with about 20 teachers and an equal number of college and university faculty who prepare teachers for the profession. We came from across the country and across the education spectrum from preschool to graduate school. We were all in training together to serve on the Board of Examiners for NCATE -- the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education.

We were in sunny California (I know this because we could see it through the hotel atrium roof), but this was no vacation. From Saturday till Thursday we struggled to wrap our heads around the Council's accreditation standards. We dug through a mountain of evidence. We debated—sometimes forcefully—about the recommendations we would make. We wrote our report into the wee hours of the morning. We proofed and polished and then we faced a rather stringent review of our work. Teachers and teacher educators worked side by side as peers, learning to assess the quality of programs that prepare the next generation of teachers.

As I pause to reflect on all this recent professional activity, I realize that I’m working harder than I’ve ever worked before. I’m doing quite a lot of it for little or no extra compensation, and I’m loving every minute of it. Why? What does all this mean?

It means I’m no longer “just a teacher.” I am surprised and humbled to discover that I have become a teacher leader and have the opportunity to a contributing member of the education profession if I’m willing to accept the challenge. It requires I be informed. It requires I keep an open mind and a respectful demeanor. It requires that I assume good intentions and live with compromise. I requires I never neglect my students in order to serve my profession.

It’s a lot to take on, and it's a little scary sometimes, but there is important work on the table and good company around it. And I’m noticing that more and more of that company is made up of teachers.

Just imagine!

I hope some day you will join us…….


I'm sorry, but I've been a teacher for eleven years and I've always had "a place at the table." Administrators, colleagues, parents of students and my own family members have always treated me as an expert in what I do. I'm really confused! Are other teachers not treated this way? If not, why? I do believe the teaching profession in the United States has a bad rap, but I personally have never suffered from it. I've had difficult parents here and there, but that's it. I wonder why my experience has been so different.

I, too, have always been considered an expert in my profession, but my transition after retirement from the medical imaging industry into public education had mixed reviews. I was held in high esteem by my neighbors, friends and former industry colleagues and treated with a level of distrust from my new teacher colleagues. There was an extended period of "let's see if he sinks or swims" before being trusted and eventually becoming the science department chairman. After 43 years of science and many summers working within the applied research center environment at one of the national accelerator facilities, I try to keep my science knowledge on the very cutting edge of information and technology. I share this experience with my colleagues and students with the hope that they, too, will become impassioned with science as I have had the privilege to enjoy.

There is a natural hierarchy of content disciplines. Math, Science, English, Social Studies, Electives (Industrial Technology, Business Technology, Family and Consumer Sciences, Band and Orchestra), PE and finally the chorus teacher.

High school content teachers are held in higher esteem than middle school teachers and the early education elementary teachers. In my opinion the "esteemness" should be reversed since all high and middle content areas are dependent upon the foundation that is created by the elementary teachers and the applied sciences and technologies.

Just my 2 cents worth.

I agree with you that high school teachers are held in higher esteem. It's easier for people to understand what they do and their worth--the body of knowledge they have--is easier to measure. There's less pressure on elementary and middle school teachers "to get kids into college" though, so it balances out. I think teachers who are passionate about what they do, who continue to learn and share with their colleagues, and who clearly love their students will always be appreciated and hold positions of influence.

By the way that was me again--thanks for joining me in the discussion!

Bridget Looney

Congratulations, Susan, and best wishes with your new assignment.

Hello -
I always appreciate your articulate columns on teaching. I can't agree that our teacher leadership work should go without financial compensation. Most teachers already contribute above and beyond what anyone in the business world would do with or without pay. Yes, teaching is part inspiration, but we should be acknowledged and compensated for our hard work and careful thinking.

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