Here’s a guest blog by our TSU partner Marilyn Hollman:
Tell your stories. That’s what Teachers Speak Up is all about.
Teachers are optimists or they would never be able to return on Monday. But to spend time writing, whether a letter or a speech, takes energy. A burning purpose or question and an audience make that “energy expense” worthwhile if there is some possibility of an open-minded listener and even the faintest trace of an avenue for change.
Sometimes some outsider clout can corral that listener and widen that avenue. RESPECT is an educator led movement initiated and supported by the Department of Education, that provides some outsider clout. In this forum you will actually hear and see and read about classroom teachers from around the US, K-12.
This group’s first recommendation is to complete the RESPECT Self-Inventory with a group of fellow teachers. The Inventory contains the following critical components:
- A Culture of Shared Responsibility and Leadership
- Top Talent, Prepared for Success
- Effective Teachers and Principals
- Continuous Growth and Professional Development
- Professional Career Continuum with Competitive Compensation
- Creating Conditions for Success
- Engaged Communities
“Ah,” you may say, “I’ve seen those words before.” Well, yes, you have. But have you decided to tell people other than your colleagues or family the stories about what an effective teacher looks like, what can result from shared responsibility, what a difference no playground duty can make in your professional teaching life? What RESPECT feels like?
The RESPECT site provides a structure to begin, again, the conversation, as well as some specific action plans.
A personal note — I am a cynical optimist; I taught in a public high school over 35 years. This advocacy stuff is all SO hard. However, as one teacher on the site says, this seems to be a good time to try again. A summarized story follows.
One of the statements in the Critical Component #1 reads, “Shared decision-making structures empower principals and teacher leaders to develop school goals and strategies for achieving them.” In the darker ages, I had a principal who fell in love with Quality Circles. There it was, folks, shared decision-making, empowerment, labor and management working together. We’ve heard that before — in fact, right here in RESPECT. The Circle’s members (mostly volunteers) inventoried problems that everyone wanted solved. They took on a biggie: the school schedule that allowed 22 minutes to get your food and eat, teachers and students alike. Principals had all the time they wanted, but this principal really wanted to do Quality Circles. This First Circle (thank you, Mr. Solzhenitsyn) gathered information, analyzed it, found a solution. And implemented it! No fairy story, folks. It made an enormous change in teacher and student lives.
–Marilyn J. Hollman