Teachers As Advocates

From: http://www.flickr.com/photos/garryknight/5542172347/

When talking with a group of teachers last week about the frustration that sometimes comes with not feeling they are respected as professionals in the field of education, I had to sit back and think about this question.  We often hear conversations from many that say, “Well when I was in school…”, and we often feel frustrated that many do not understand some of the complexities that come with our profession.

On the other hand though, do we sometime as educators make this comment easy to make?  If our classroom looks the same as it did 20, 30, or more years ago, wouldn’t much of the community have a general idea of how the classroom is run?  I mean, they were there for 12 years, and if you put me in a situation where I spent 12 years of my life, I am sure I would have a pretty solid understanding of the environment.

Here is how the story could look…Teacher stands at the front, kids sit down in their desks, take some notes, answer some questions, and then test time.  Kids act up, we get mad and discipline them and if what we do doesn’t work, send them to the office.  Yes there are areas of content that many people would never feel comfortable delivering, but with the basic “running” of an everyday classroom, it could seem pretty simple.

It is not that this type of education was wrong, but it was just meant for a different time.  One of our school board trustees used the analogy of “typing classes” in schools which seemed meaningless to me.  To her though, at the time when this course was prevalent in schools, there was a real need for this skill as it was essential to gaining employment as a secretary.

Different time, different needs.

My suggestion to the group of teachers was that we need to really show and implement our learning of best educational practices in schools.  We need to be explicit in sharing what we are doing with our students, and more importantly, why our school environment is changing. There will always be a human element that most people should understand when working in the classroom (value of relationships), just like in any organization, but when it comes to ideas of motivation, brain research, pedagogy, assessment, as educators we have to be transparent in why this research and understanding matters, and how it will benefit our students.  When I hear others talk from different professions, not only about their passion for what they do, but the progress their careers have made, I know my value of what they do increases.

When moving forward with new initiatives in schools, I really believe we need to make available research and literature to our school communities.  This will also help educate parents of students so they can walk beside us as we make schools better.  This is not in any way saying that we should not value what our school communities bring to the table.  I really believe that as educators, we should have a thorough and up to date knowledge of what works best for kids in classrooms.  For parents, they should have a strong understanding of how we can do the best for their child.  If we can bring those elements together, schools will be better for kids.

There are two reasons why educators should share this learning.  First and foremost, it would share the best practices and learning with other educators, stakeholders, essentially creating better learning opportunities for our students.  Secondly, it could move our profession forward in the eye of the public.  Unfortunately, the blog post that was probably most talked about in the mainstream media from a teacher last year was one that was extremely negative.

I guess I have just been wondering a lot lately about how we as educators are advocates for our own profession.  Do we share what we do in class to better educate students, or how we are always continuously learning and striving to get better for our students often, or do we simply do it only when times may be tough in our profession?  Do we promote what we do and the ways we work to get better? Do we share our stories enough?

I would love your thoughts….

6 Comments

  1. summer said:

    We don’t say ‘in my professional opinion’ enough in education. We need to back ourselves more. Action research where practice informs evidence is key….in my professional opinion 😉

    October 21, 2011
  2. […] Teachers as Advocates. Blog post that challenges teachers to do a better job of advocating for what they are doing in the classroom. […]

    October 22, 2011
  3. Katelyn Callahan said:

    Mr. Couros,
    I am a Student at the University of South Alabama, I am taking EDM310. I completely agree with you! It is important to get it out there what is working and the different changes in classrooms! I have read so many different things about education, teachers and schools! I have found all of it useful, just like this and know that others do also!
    Thanks, Katelyn

    October 24, 2011
  4. Darrius Mooney said:

    Mr. Couros,

    My name is Darrius Mooney and I’m a student at the University of South Alabama in EDm 310 and I must say I agree wholeheartedly with you. In order for out students to have an effective learning experience we should also help educate parents and everyone else in out students communities as well. Also, I agree with you that teachers should share with one another the different techniques that they are using to see if it would be benefital to any other teacher.

    October 26, 2011
  5. Dan Winters said:

    My mom recently called me and asked why I haven’t fixed the schools yet, since all she heard on the news was how screwed up the educational system was. I wholeheartedly agree that we need to take charge of the message. Many of the “talking heads” on education are far removed from the work of schools. We need to use our position in the community as a bully pulpit to espouse the reasons for the type of education we are providing. It seems strange to say, but we need to “educate” our school community on learning theory, educational reform efforts, and where our staff is heading on these questions.

    November 9, 2011
  6. Mary Miller said:

    I strongly agree that sharing instructional practices are important in developing consistency, learning goals, fostering effective dialogue, building relationships and making teachers feel valued in their profession. Although some teachers love to share their experiences and their ideas, others do not. The problem here may be that in many occasions, the role of the teacher becomes a competition with other teachers. Instead of working against each other, or in isolation, teachers need to look at each other and their administration for support. Everyday is a learning moment for students as well as educators. We need to realize that some things will work and some things won’t. It’s what you do after that experience that matters:).

    November 24, 2011

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