In my first post, I defined teachers as experts. My approach to shifting the paradigm about the public perception of teaching is to consider what teacher leaders can do—and once again I am inspired by my own teaching swag.
In my classroom is a series of posters with the slogan “Think Different” that highlights people who have thought differently, like Cesar Chavez and Amelia Earhart. Their purpose is to inspire my students, but maybe they can help us solve this issue as well. What if we could...
1) Think different ... about teacher preparation. If we truly believe that teaching is something that requires expertise, why do we assume that teachers right out of college are fully prepared to take on a classroom? And when they have trouble, rather than support and guide them, we have a tendency to brand them as people who just aren’t cut out to be teachers. Other professions require years of on-the-job training before practitioners are allowed to work solo: Why should teaching be any different?
Teacher leaders can discuss changing teacher preparation and internship programs to include more co-teaching opportunities and extending student teaching to be a full year with several cooperating teachers.
2) Think different ... about collaboration. Many schools have professional learning communities—groups of teachers that meet to design curriculum and discuss assessment. But are we using technology to collaborate on a larger scale? As we begin implementing the Common Core State Standards, it only makes sense that we begin to work as a global community. The public might see teachers differently if it was evident that we are committed to collaborating nationally to ensure that every student classroom is receiving a quality education. Teacher leaders can participate in national teacher networks and encourage colleagues to seek out professional opportunities.
As we focus our instruction on college and career readiness, we should also think more broadly about resources. If one of my students reported to his parents that I had co-taught an Advanced Placement Calculus lesson with a NASA engineer via Skype, his parents might think of me in a different light: as a resourceful teacher who is an expert in her field.
3) Think different ... about teacher leadership. What if master teachers in your building taught students part-time and devoted portions of their day co-teaching with new teachers? Or preparing training sessions, or giving teachers time to observe one another? Allocating time during the school day for professional development sends a message that teaching requires expertise.
Working in isolation means we fail to tap into the resources in our own buildings. Could you propose an idea to your principal that would allow for more teacher leadership opportunities during the school day?
It may seem like I am letting the public off the hook. But this has to be a grassroots movement that starts with teachers questioning policies and procedures in their own buildings and encouraging others to think different—and make positive changes for the profession.
Ali Crowley is a National Board-certified teacher in Lexington, Ky., where she teaches Algebra 2 and AP Calculus.
The opinions expressed in Teaching Ahead: A Roundtable are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.