I am very inpsired by your determination to make a difference this year, to change the perception of the professional educator in your community. In order to get to the essence of what a good educator is, I can give you my own personal opinion, but I'm not sure it will get to the essence of what you are looking for. What is the perception of professional educators in your community? I'm sure we will have a range among us.
As I work with people from all over, I find that teachers are generally...under appreciated. This is due to different factors, some financial, some, lack of knowledge about what actually goes on in school. There was an article I read recently about Kindergarden classes being babysitting. Not very complimentary and so far from the truth... I think part of the issue is ignorance. How many people know what goes on in school? They might read the media, they ask their child. Ask a child what they did in school today. My middle-schooler will say "nothing", even though I know she's been busy. If you are not intimately involved with the school system, it's hard to understand the work that takes place. What do we know about what an attorney's life is like? A chemical engineer? If you were to ask me, I would say educating the community is the first place to start. Ask community members to come into school and see what a day in the life of a teacher is like. Ask them to join committees. Create your own committee in the community to improve the perception of educators. Educators are professionals and need to be treated as such. Find out why and where these perceptions come from and maybe you'll find a few things that educators in your community can do to help improve their image.
I wish you lots of luck and am looking forward to having some more comversation. - B
Thanks for your response and your ideas! I agree we will have a wide range, and I hope to get some thoughts from those in communities where educators are well-respected.
Here in Arizona, there is a lot of feeling that (extreme) independence is ideal. I agree that one of my goals for students is that they become independent thinkers and actors, but I don't think I mean that they should not learn to consider the thoughts, opinions, and ideas of others. That's what is getting us into trouble. I could wax eloquent about politics, but I think that's best left out of the discussion.)
Often, parents think teachers are just babysitting, and that we are available to teach any social construct that the particular parent espouses. Of course, we need to remain neutral and help children to see both sides of issues, but parents often don't see it that way, unless they don't want us to "teach" any morals or attitudes. <whew! We try to be everything to everyone!>>
However, in my community, teacher morale is at an all-time low, mainly due to years of bad administration, poor leadership from principals, and the horrible funding crunch in the past few years. Our legislature continues to cut per-pupil education funding- we are 50th out of 51 (with Puerto Rico) I believe. Attitudes have truly crashed and many teachers feel little motivation to spend extra time in professional development required or not.
Why should we learn innovative methods when all they want from us is test preparation? That is an overwhelming sentiment!
Why should I learn how to do PBL (or other) when they will not allow me the time to create the new lessons; they believe it will take away instructional time and is just "fun?" Teachers have to defend education frequently, and many have just given it up.
I have already begun to team with business leaders here. I will work with the Chamber of Commerce's task force on education. Business leaders see the need for attracting and maintaining good teachers and the powerful effect a good school system has on a community, but they are apt to work in a vacuum if there are none representing the system except for the superintendent on the committees. By the way, the superintendent is focused only on financial solvency- and has cut librarians and other vital programs instead of fighting the legislature.
Yes, I'm biased. But I believe I will be able to represent the issues and listen to the opposing view intelligently and help to broker long-term change here. It's frightening because it's such a big issue and it's also exciting to think that there are others who may be able to work with me.
We hope to make internships in businesses available for teachers as well as discounts for teachers at local businesses. I hope that over time we are able to foster some flexibility in the system to encourage teachers who try to develop themselves professionally. We have had quite a few teachers in the last few years win grants and awards, but their colleagues pooh-pooh their accomplishments. ("Who does s/he think s/he is...better than us? S/he is just making us look bad," is a frequent refrain!)
We have already begun to develop a non-profit which collects cast-offs from businesses and offers them at a low-low membership prict to teachers as classroom supplies. A similar business is operating in Phoenix, AZ. Read about them here. They also take donations of almost anything (office furniture, lawn mowers, etc) and sell it on Craig's List to fund purchase of other classroom supplies for educators.
I'm hoping for ideas and reflections from others! I believe we're off to a good start and I'm eager to learn about how it's done in other communities!
Whew! That was a lot to say and I'm so glad you shared it! I think you have a solid plan to change the perception of educators in Arizona. The only thing you need? More people to stand with you! A few years ago in NY, as a way to introduce social media tools to administrators and other educational organizations, a group of us began to communicate using a NING called School Leadership. Welcome 2011, and it is now transformed into a learning community called School Leadership 2.0. What started as a way to change perception about social media, has begun to change the way districts (hundreds in NY and beyond) communicate with each other. It has been revamped due to NING's new pricing structure and can now be found at: http://www.schoolleadership20.com/ Take a peek. Maybe you need one for your business and education community to have discussions.
I also sit on our local Chamber of Commerce business education committee and I will say that in my experience, to be successful in your mission, you need MORE EDUCATORS to take the time to communicate with them in meaningful ways. It's great to be one but much better to be many. Glad you've started the revolution.
Keep us posted!
Just wanted to mention that your Treasures 4 Teachers program in Arizona is a treasure indeed. That is definitely one very creative way to get business involved in sharing with their schools. How wonderful!
In the NYC public school system, there is an organization called Materials for the Arts. Same concept. Your T4T website is so much more user friendly and inviting. In both cases, they are wonderful demonstrations of giving where the students win!
I wonder, are there other places around the country where such a concept exists? There must be. I'd love to see more!
I also admire your determination to make change among your educators in your community. How I wish that it could happen here in our community in Philippines. Mostly of our educators here in our community uses more of traditonal paper and pencil test in assessing. I know it could be a big help to us your suggestions to start this change in our community.
Michael writes with some frustration regarding what he sees in the Phillipines. I want to encourage you to change in your own practice. Yes, it is slow. I believe that our administrators are quite important in the idea of systemic change. If you have a leader who will be inspired by your example and will be bold in asking others to emulate some of your innovative practices, change will come sooner rather than later.
I have a new job since my original posting. I am now Associate Superintendent of Schools in my County. Not all states and counties in the U.S. have County agencies like ours, but we have an Education Service Agency (I am now the Director) which can affect practices at all of the school districts, charter schools and to a minimal extent, private schools in a large geographic area.
You see, my New Year's Resolution is coming to fruition! I now have a wider range of influence, and the challenge to me is twofold: 1. push for change and 2. be a leader who does not alienate the constituents.
Don't just "Hang in there," but "Be a leader!" If you are participating in an Intel Course, then you have some authority in your area to speak up, then support others who want to improve their practice.
We are just starting with our Intel course together with my colleague here in our community. We are very thankful to Mr. Ambut who took effort to share his ideas to us of the 21st Century teacher. We are very much inspired and willing to be trained more to become an efficient and productive teachers. We also hope that in our own little way, we can start gradually the change in terms of teaching here in our community.
Thank you also Ma'am for your encouraging words. I hope that you could extend more practices that could help us here in the Philippines.