(Reader note: Welcome to the ninth in a series of weekly articles meant to stimulate thought and ideas. I am the only school board candidate offering weekly ideas to improve our schools.)
Teachers are not like the rest of us. They enter their profession with one of the heaviest responsibilities in the country but without the recognition that should come with it.
Teachers don’t get into teaching to make a lot of money. Job satisfaction is important to them just as it is to the rest of us. On the job, the first two things they want are what the rest of us want: Some appreciation of their work, and some knowledge that their work has meaning.
This week, we are exploring another NationSwell concept. You can find it at: http://nationswell.com/ask-experts-7-ways-improve-k-12-public-education/
Modernize the Teacher’s Job
No teacher is an island. And yet in the traditional education model, each teacher works alone, isolated in his or her own classroom without adequate communication or support from the school — or from peers. This is “really a factory-style model,” says Lynette Guastaferro, executive director of Teaching Matters, a nonprofit advocacy group in New York City. What we need to do is revamp the organization of education and schools to mirror the way “modern American companies work,” she says.
First, schools need to be restructured to support teacher effectiveness. Guastaferro says that means working with school leadership to make sure that they are conveying to teachers clear and consistent standards about what they should be teaching and how they will be assessed in terms of their effectiveness. Second, schools should identify who their best, most effective teachers are and then empower them to lead and help train other teachers. “What this does is two things,” says Guastaferro. “It helps solve the problem of [teacher] retention and it helps to reduce isolation, allowing [teachers] to problem-solve together.”
The idea, basically, is to modernize the job by radically rethinking the role of teachers and their place in the educational structure. They should be allowed to be critical thinkers and problem-solvers — that’s the whole point of the Common Core, after all. “This new generation of young people who come into education [aren’t] looking for 30 years in a system and a gold watch in the end,” says Guastaferro. “Right now, we’re lucky if they will stay in the job for five to seven years. You have to give this generation a career path and status in their work.”
To this, I will add – again – that there should be a focus on improving the efficiency of teacher reporting, or, even better, reduce the amount.