Teaching Profession

U.S. Ed. Dept. Strives to Build RESPECT for Teachers

By Francesca Duffy — May 08, 2012 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

At a roundtable discussion in Washington on Monday morning, U.S. Department of Education officials led a roomful of undergraduate students and faculty from various colleges of education in South Carolina in a conversation about elevating the teaching profession. The students, who are part of the South Carolina Teaching Fellows Program, a selective teacher-recruitment program that provides a four-year scholarship to students who want to become public school teachers in the state, were invited to comment on a department document laying out a vision for the future of the teaching profession.

The session was one of several events hosted this week by the department in honor of Teacher Appreciation Week, and is part of the Administration’s proposed $5 billion program called the RESPECT project, which aims to engage teachers and principals across the country in rebuilding the teaching profession. RESPECT—Recognizing Educational Success, Professional Excellence and Collaborative Teaching—is an initiative led by Teaching Ambassador Fellows, active classroom teachers who are working temporarily for the department to serve as the “voices of teachers.” The TAFs have held roundtables with thousands of teachers in the past year to get their feedback in shaping the vision document.

“A lot of policy tends to start up high and work its ways down, but this is the reversal,” Teaching Ambassador Fellow Greg Mullenholz said in introducing the event. “We are meeting with folks like you all, who are coming into the profession, and we want your perspective. It’s about building the policy here and driving it back up the pipeline.”

The idea behind this “grassroots policy initiative,” Mullenholz added, is to challenge both new and veteran teachers to take the ideas laid out in the vision document, as well as those that arise from these roundtable discussions on strengthening the teaching profession, share them with their colleagues back at their schools, and encourage other teachers to participate in the project’s public comment process. “It’s about whether the vision we present to you is the right one for the teaching profession,” said Mullenholz.

Prior to the start of the table discussions, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan made a brief appearance and took photos with the students. Acknowledging Teacher Appreciation Week, he spoke briefly about the importance of the teaching profession. “I don’t know what bigger difference we can make in education than the contributions that teachers make in the classroom,” he said.

At each of the five tables, students and professors shared their initial thoughts on the vision document. At one table, a student pointed out that the document referenced “effective” teaching, but did not include a clear definition of what that looks like. Other students thought there should be more emphasis on how to get the public to take the teaching profession more seriously. Another student cautioned against placing too much of an emphasis on the use of technology in the classroom, explaining that some South Carolina classrooms don’t even contain books for kids to use, let alone computers. “We need to first make sure every kid has access to basic books before we ask [the students] to become proficient in various kinds of technology,” she said.

Mullenholz also asked the students to give their feedback on the five “pillars” interwoven in the document, which he said derived from the various conversations that the TAFs have had with teachers from all over the country. They are: attracting top-tier talent into education; creating a professional career continuum; creating conditions for success; evaluating and supporting the development of teachers, and getting the best educators to the students who need them the most.

In reference to “creating conditions for success,” students suggested that the document include more ideas on how schools can engage families and communities so that teachers are better supported and motivated to succeed. A student in the group discussing “getting the best educators to the students who need them the most” chimed in that the student-selection process for teacher programs at colleges should be more competitive so that only the best candidates end up in classrooms. “Some people who apply to education schools don’t really want to be teachers, they just use it as a ‘crutch’ because they think it’s just so easy to teach,” he said.

The session ended with Mullenholz asking everyone at each table to come up with one word from the discussion that resonated with them, and that they will take with them into the classroom. Among others, the South Carolina fellows pointed to the words “collaborative,” “support,” “retain,” and “accountability.”


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Student Well-Being Webinar
When SEL Curriculum Is Not Enough: Integrating Social-Emotional Behavior Supports in MTSS
Help ensure the success of your SEL program with guidance for building capacity to support implementation at every tier of your MTSS.
Content provided by Illuminate Education
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Teaching Profession Webinar
Professional Wellness Strategies to Enhance Student Learning and Live Your Best Life
Reduce educator burnout with research-affirmed daily routines and strategies that enhance achievement of educators and students alike. 
Content provided by Solution Tree
English-Language Learners Webinar The Science of Reading and Multilingual Learners: What Educators Need to Know
Join experts in reading science and multilingual literacy to discuss what the latest research means for multilingual learners in classrooms adopting a science of reading-based approach.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Teaching Profession Black Teachers, Pay Incentives, and Evaluation Systems: What New Research Shows
Black teachers in D.C. respond differently than their peers to job-evaluation pressures—and are less likely to opt into a bonus system.
7 min read
Rear view of a Black female teacher in front of class teaching students - wearing face masks
Teaching Profession A Teacher Advises Colleagues: Find a School Where You Can Be a 'Magician'
In a new book, Patrick Harris remembers his teacher role models and urges his peers to find a school with the right fit.
2 min read
Patrick Harris
Patrick Harris
Teaching Profession From Our Research Center Better Pay Would Keep Teachers From Quitting. But There's More to It
We asked teachers which financial incentives would keep them in their jobs. Here's what they said.
6 min read
Image of incentives that are not working.
Laura Baker/Education Week and Nuthawut Somsuk/iStock/Getty
Teaching Profession Thanks, But No Thanks: Why Teachers Don't Want to Be Administrators
Despite more money and clout, teachers question the upsides to moving into leadership right now.
5 min read
3-d rendering of a reject decline cancel icon
iStock/Getty Images