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Teachers Stepping up to the Plate

May 17, 2010

I ran across this page on Facebook.   I’m thrilled to see it!

Teachers should make the decisions about education, not politicians

It’s true.  Teachers have the expertise, the training, and the desire to make our schools excellent.

This inevitably leads to some other discussions.  First, how is it that big gaping hole was there for politicians to step into in the first place?  Of course, education is mostly publicly funded – so politicians can use it as a stepping stone to further their political careers.  They represent the people who pay the bills, which, by the way, includes tax-paying teachers.

More importantly, though, teachers did a pretty good job of creating that hole also.  It is seldom I see teachers support one another, make one another stronger.  We’re thrown into our classrooms, mostly isolated from other adults.  We’re expected to uphold the status quo.  Heaven forbid we should innovate.  And when one of us DOES do something innovative, do we support them?  Not often.

We have allowed ourselves to be divided and conquered by not only politicians, but also by poor leaders.   Teachers – you can’t just hide in your classrooms.  It’s an  overwhelming job, and it’s tempting to bury yourself in the needs of your students.   Very easy to do that.    However, if we reach out, support one another, create common goals and support each other’s efforts to get to those goals – wow.  Wouldn’t that be something?  You’ll find your job is easier when you build community with one another.

I’ve seen that kind of community in just a very few schools.  We need to become masters at it.  We need to close up that big gaping hole that allows people to step in and tell us how to do our jobs.

Building a supportive, strong teacher community might just close up the hole the politicians are taking advantage of.  Then what would they do?  I don’t know, maybe…build a strong economy and get us out of wars?

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Manuel Barrera, PhD permalink
    May 17, 2010 6:24 pm

    I could not agree more, Fran. What is important (for me, anyway) about what you say is that educators (a) are best when we try to solve problems and (b) when we work collectively and build community.
    While, as I’m sure you know, I strongly believe in social/political change, educators, as educators, have the specific responsibility to teach by example. Creating the “world-class” learning environment with all the “innovative” learning strategies that “work,” but are based on the super-classrooma and super-teacher will result in the continued disparities we already see; some kids benefit, but too many do not. Moreover, such a model is a poor example and, thus, doomed to fail.
    As a teacher educator, I have recently been working to codify my teaching experiences into some essential principles. I do not believe I have them all as yet (and if the ones I share here are correct, I assume I will not get them all myself), but I have been working with two. Here they are:
    1. Managing Students Is About Building Relationships: The fundamental basis for creating a positive learning environment is to build strong relationships with learners based on “unconditional positive regard” (Carl Rogers).
    2. The Teacher as Community Organizer: Learning is most effective when teachers support students to create networks with others in the community that help them achieve learning objectives

    Principle 1 is based on my observations of the problems of urban teachers in creating learning environments through “classroom management.” Most often difficulties occur when classroom management is confused with crisis management where teachers seek to stop or avoid behavior problems. In relation to urban students from diverse backgrounds, too many teachers do not build very strong relationships with their students; often because they also may confuse student/teacher relationships with parent/child personal relationships (a much less sustainable event). In my courses, I unpack the related issues associated with this principle, but the basic idea is that it is much easier to work with someone positively when you know who they are, they know you, and both of “you” believe in each other. This principle and its theoretical roots also, in part explain why I believe that managing learning is a developmental process and not an acquisition of expertise.
    Principle 2 describes the idea that it works better and provides a better example of learning if a teacher helps students to build connections with adults and each other through learning objectives that these others can help them to achieve. In the process, students will meet curricular objectives, but also learn that learning is a collective experience.

    This explanation is necessarily brief, but I would appreciate all of your insights.
    thanks for the opportunity to enage this discussion.

  2. May 17, 2010 8:14 pm

    I could not agree more with your comment on the “super teacher/classroom” phenomenon. It’s an impossible task, and isn’t benefitting very many. In fact, we’re wearing teachers out right and left in this approach. That’s certainly not best for students. I had not considered that classroom management and crisis management might get confused, but I think you have made an excellent point. This is indeed an issue.

    Your two principles go right to the heart of what education is all about – relationships. Student-student relationships, Teacher-student relationships, Teacher-teacher relationships, school-community relationships……and so on. It IS so much easier to accomplish our goals (once we are clear on what those are) when we have a working relationship with all those involved.

    This is where I would like to see teachers become empowered – we all know that relationships are the heart of successful education. This is the very reason so many of us become educators. There has been so much distracting stuff thrown at educators – the constant pendulum swing that education seems to have taken on being one of those – that I don’t think there is enough time to develop those necessary relationships. If teachers ran the schools – (Think Dr Seuss – If I Ran the Zoo) what would happen? I think those relationships would be at the forefront, instead of all the other garbage that gets tossed into the mix.

    Thank you so much for contributing to this discussion, Manuel. You have some intriguing ideas, and I look forward to hearing more of them.

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