What will promote greater respect for outstanding teaching?

Joe Nathan

ECM Guest Writer

More than 30 people from several states commented on last week’s column about respecting effective teachers. Here are a few of their responses.   Some suggested ways to honor excellent educators. Others discussed what some educators can/are doing to feel better about their work.

One of my favorite responses was from a parent, Brian, who wrote in part that he and his wife were not sure what to do for excellent teachers working with his stepdaughter: “Your article is the encouragement we needed to… thank them with a note and a present.”

Julie, an educator  wrote: “Really appreciate your focus on teachers. We really can’t get anywhere without them.” A university professor named Arnie wrote, “Always good to tell people that helped you ‘thanks.’ I suspect we often overlook the very people who have done the most to help us along the way.”

Gary from New Mexico recalled convening 30  award-winning teachers. “One thing that was apparent in almost all of them was their high level of energy and enthusiasm for their work. They continued to find a lot of enjoyment and satisfaction in their investment of time, talent and resources in their professional practice.

When I (asked) what it was that they needed most in their work, I was somewhat surprised to learn that it was not about more  resources, more compensation, better working conditions, or more free time. What they wanted and needed more than anything was recognition and appreciation for their work and who they were. (his emphasis)”

A former teacher wrote, “Maybe part of the issue is self-respect among the teachers. As I have been investigating innovative schools and learning environments, it has occurred to me that some of my favorites are very-teacher driven, that the innovations are coming from teachers with specific educational visions. I fear that many of the teachers in more traditional contexts view their role in a much more passive manner, than what and how they teach is somewhat mandated from above, and the lack of responsibility or ownership makes them feel safer.  They do not typically see themselves as independent entitites practicing a profession the way a doctor might. They take helter and comfort in being cogs in the machine…

One former school board member suggested two ways to help increase respect for teachers:

1) Teachers should clean up their own ranks and stop allowing unions to protect seriously deficient teachers.

2) Families themselves must respect the work of learning and support reasonable teacher expectations and discipline.”

Ann, a school board member commented, “Families of kids in school overwhelmingly support and like their schools and teachers (even when data on things like achievement tell a shockingly different story)…

I wonder if families look at respect very personally (between teachers and families) but perhaps teachers look at respect less between themselves and families (perhaps respect there is assumed?) and more or also between themselves and “outside” or “system” forces—not just their principals but the larger administration, board, state and federal Departments of Ed, Legislatures, Congress, etc.”

Finally, one woman recalled, “My aunt, who was a nun and a teacher, seemed to feel respected when her pupils came back to visit her after they were grown and out in the world… She taught first through eighth grade for some sixty plus years…”

Many other comments are posted at www.centerforschoolchange.org/publications/joenathan. As we end the year, why not write, visit or call at least one outstanding teacher?

– Joe Nathan, formerly a public school teacher and administrator, directs the Center for School Change at Macalester.  Reactions welcome, jnathan@macalester.edu

 

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