Tag Archives: teaching

Redefining Teachers as True Professionals

So why is it that doctors play a key role in running the institutions (hospitals) where they practice their profession and defining what constitutes quality practice, but teachers generally don’t? Aren’t these both considered “professions”, and as such should be given comparable stature? No hospital would think of having a governance structure where doctor’s don’t play a key role, particularly in the delivery of medical care. Shouldn’t teachers play a comparably critical role in running their schools and defining what constitutes educational practice?

Perhaps as a parent, and not a professional educator, I am not in the ideal position to pose these questions, but I don’t find the teachers I know posing them. The teachers I know personally generally define themselves as “labor”, union organized labor in most cases, in opposition to the people that run their schools, who are considered the “management”. Even the teachers whose words I see on Daily KOS or elsewhere in the media championing their profession rarely call for that profession to play the key roll governing their schools and the education process generally.

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A Fledgling Teacher-Led School Trend

As a follow-up to Ken Bernstein’s Daily KOS diary, “Education – Moving Past Excuses: What Excellence & Equity Require”, republished on our Daily KOS “Education Alternatives” group, I wanted to explore further some perhaps more radical thoughts behind Ken’s statement which I (as a parent and not a professional educator like Ken) completely agree with…

Teachers are quite capable of serving in a number of productive capacities outside of their individual classrooms and their individual schools.

My mom, who was a very capable volunteer political activist (with a Bachelors in Sociology, but also not a professional educator), always used to say that, “Teachers should run the schools”. Where she came to that insight, I really don’t know, but as a kid I used to think, “Yeah mom, whatever”. Now as an adult, and parent to two now young-adult kids who struggled in their public schools, her insight keeps coming back to me as I watch the increasing standardization and top-down control of those public schools.

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Educating for Human Greatness

The title of this piece is the goal of my friend Lynn Stoddard, who has worked for over 50 years as an elementary school teacher, principal and consultant. His goal is to elevate the profession of teaching and inspire teachers to truly facilitate the development of a young human being rather than merely instruct them on standardized curriculum so they can pass the tests. I am aware of no greater contemporary champion for a holistic approach to teaching and education consistent with the great education innovators of the 20th Century like John Dewey, Waldorf founder Rudolph Steiner, and Maria Montessori.

From chapter 1 page 1 of his book Educating for Human Greatness, Lynn frames the challenges for the profession of teaching in the current US educational context…

In 1983 a National Commission on Excellence in Education issued a “Nation at Risk Report” and set in motion a series of government imposed reforms, all based on a false goal: student achievement in curriculum. One of these reforms, “No Child Left Behind,” put extra pressure on teachers to ignore the diverse needs of students and, instead, standardize students in reading, writing and math. More recently the U.S. Department of Education has installed a set of national standards for student uniformity. Subject matter specialists, along with major influence from business and industry, have decided what all students should know and be able to do at each grade level. Tests are administered to assess student learning of the prescribed material. In some cases the tests are used as an assessment of the quality of teaching. This top-down, misguided pressure is evidence that public school teaching is not regarded as a profession in our society.

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Teachers Taking Control: A Historical Context

In my previous blog piece, “Teachers Take Control of a Detroit School”, I got generally positive comments on Daily KOS on the good news this story represented for progressives. One commenter, a former teacher, wished they could have been involved in such a school, while instead…

I taught in secondary schools for sixteen years. I left because I had two choices… 1. Fight constantly with administrators, school boards, district officials et al for the freedom to teach the best possible curriculum with the best possible methodology for the students in my classroom… OR 2. Blindly follow the wishes of all of the above people regarding curriculum and methodology to the detriment of my students… I got tired of fighting and left the profession. I would give anything to teach in a school like this where teachers and students matter more than filling out forms that confirm that standard 12.1.3 Letter H was taught on school day 42.

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