0111: What can be done to empower teachers? More Rules for Radical Teachers #education #revolution @educatoral
I’ve heard a lot of talk from the “higher ups” and some media outlets that “we need to make teaching a respected profession again”. There are several problems here. First, teachers have always had to fight for their dignity. We’re constantly fighting the image of “coddler”, “babysitter”, replacement parent ( in loco parentis ), “bad teacher, whatever. The teaching profession has struggled for any bit of dignity it has been given. Second, any dignity it has been “given” has been earned by teachers who have stood up and demanded changes be made.
For there to be any solution, we have to create it. Waiting for Mr. Duncan or anyone else to make the teaching profession respected again will result in nothing more than twiddling thumbs and more of the let down that has accompanied our profession for so long. The solution must begin with teachers becoming educated for creating change. Teachers must become activists, agitators, and advocates. This will not and cannot happen all at once, of course, it will require patience and commitment to becoming empowered, and then empowering those around you.
Foreseeable problems: Many teachers (in certain situations most teachers) have either never been in a position to advocate for themselves
Many teachers have existed in passivity throughout their careers. Their passivity has been either forced or allowed. Teachers who’ve advocated for themselves have often been forced back into passivity through threats, reprimands, or worse. These teachers are reluctant to bother with anything that might expose them to trouble.
Other teachers, similar to the first type, have been rendered subservient through years of subtle conditioning. If you do this, then this will come. Retirement being the carrot.
Some teachers follow the “don’t make no waves” policy. In many cases education is a field of self preservation. The survivalist mentality that is promoted through high stakes tests, evals, and other fear-mongering strategies keeps teachers separated, isolated, and passive. So what can be done?
Possible solutions: Foremost, the silence must be broken. Teachers have to come out of isolation. They have to be able to articulate their issues— publicly. Many teachers are quite skilled at venting their problems, but will not stand behind what they say behind closed doors. There is a lot of talk with little action. So, maybe stating the “problem” is not the answer. Maybe it lies in discussing pedagogy. I submit that if you get
teacher talking about teaching they (we) can’t shut up. Teachers want to teach, and they want to arrive at solutions. If you’re the catalyst for change that is on its way, it might behoove you and your cohorts to engage any teacher, especially the reluctant ones, in conversation about solutions to the problems they’re having— behavior, academic, etc. This builds an atmosphere of collegiality that is non-conspiratorial. It’s less threatening. Talking about teaching is not a coup; it’s a productive activity. The revolution, if you will, must develop slowly as the teacher/person/student becomes actively involved in reflection of their own practice and
begins to feel mildly in control.
How do these conversations begin? Carefully. No teacher wants some pompous activist, consultant, or hoodlum coming into their classroom and telling them what to do. Teachers need people who listen first. So, if you’re involved in change, remember to listen. Help neighbors arrive at their own solution. Help them realize their own power. Revelation happens quite easily once one begins to reflect. Revelations bring about internal revolutions.
So, take your planning period, lunch period, chat in the parking lot, whenever, and ask a fellow teacher for help. Get them to help
you solve a problem. You need their help. By engaging them in solution building you are gaining a colleague and acting as a catalyst for your neighbor’s transformation. Be a listener and a learner. Engage everyone. As many as you can.
Change takes time, humility, and a
willingness to engage everyone. If you can engage even the most treacherous administrator you’re taking a right step toward sustainable change.
Original Rules for Radical Teachers