With all due respect to the head researchers, think tanks, sponsors, politicians, and anyone with any opinion on education, the change we seek in education takes root in the voices of our K-12 educators and practitioners. Those of us with a big enough voice and a fair amount of writing talent get the opportunity to speak to large crowds over the Internet, something most educators still haven't gravitated towards, and that's fine. Jobs implicitly negate any voices of dissent in their Internet policies, droves of paperwork drowning out any leftover energy for this type of work, and intimidation tactics unfit for places meant to foster child growth.
The reactions to the book Teaching 2030, a book I co-authored with Barnett Berry and 12 other dedicated teacher leaders drive my thoughts here. As we talk about the book across the country (and around the world), we're seeing tons of feedback about what the teacher voices should sound like if the model we've proposed actually follows through. Most of the voices worry about the Bill Gates/Eli Broads of the world who prefer that teachers have no voice unless it specifically sounds like theirs. They like the stereotypes of the impossible superhero and the demure cheery godmother; the former almost impossible to reach and sustain, the latter drawing on shades of sexist views of women who dedicate themselves to the lives of children daily.
It's not enough.
We as a whole need to transform our vision of the professionals who spend on average $400 of their monies to the 30, 60, 90, 150 students in front of them for the majority of the year. We should listen to this group not just when they need to give your child a report card, but also when they speak on the dire conditions of our poorest and most ostracized. We should listen to the group when they have something to say about the brush fire that is legislation against teachers, but also when they speak on the damaging effects of natural and man-made disasters around the world that influence how the schools around them get built. In turn, it means teachers need to speak up about these things. It's great that many teachers dedicate their whole lives to ed-tech, but they should speak up about budgeting and why they can't get the proper tools to their students.
Yes, there's space for all allies to aid educators, parents, and students in pushing for true education revision. Major movements need a coalition of people who believe in a core set of principles to make any real move. Yet, in this movement, educators need to have educators lead that charge. Educators need to write the next chapters, make the elevator speeches, research the big papers, run for offices, and invest in those who invest in those who support teachers.
If we can find ways to break the mold of teacher voice to one that's more multidimensional, we can rest assured that the general public's tone will go from mere acknowledgment to concrete respect for the profession. It's less about gabbing and complaining at any given moment; it's more about holding high standards for ourselves and demanding that our expert voices are heard in surround sound.
Teachers are more than teachers. We are more than one voice. Care enough to join us.