March 2016 Archives

I have seen any number of education organizations, with thoughtful and important goal statements on their websites, position teacher leadership as something they can somehow teach or imbue (kind of like grit, come to think of it). Yes, there is Stuff You Have to Know to become a teacher leader (teachers don't wade around in policy-making, traditionally). Yes, it helps to collaborate with others who have good ideas. But is there a formalized pathway to leadership? In a sense, it's an insult to excellent teachers everywhere, who have held their grade level cohort or department or buildings together through determination ...


Blaming public education for things over which it has zero control is now thoroughly woven into the national discourse on a myriad of issues. Stupid voters? Blame the schools. Lazy workers and economic downslope? Public education's fault. Anti-intellectualism? They must have learned it at school. Just another opportunity to take a cheap, unsubstantiated shot at public schools. Who does that? And believes they're justified in doing so?


In a sense, a teacher is a public person, with an audience of a few hundred students, parents and colleagues, rather than millions of viewers. Like a sportscaster, a teacher's professional reputation is built on her public face, the respect built around her visible work and expertise. She has a right to draw a line between her private life, and her public persona. It's not easy to be a teacher and maintain a private life, entirely separate from your career.


If districts, states, and the country don't make sweeping changes to public schools and the cities housing them, recruiting more teachers is going to be a waste of time and money and trying to retain those teachers will be a fool's errand. Great teachers should be rewarded for being great teachers, and they can be identified as such without an over-reliance on test scores. While financial incentives may work for some, increased autonomy and the ability to pursue customized professional development are equally important to others, and retaining great teachers will require both.


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