Strengthening Teacher Voice


Can I just say — and I am most likely speaking for all teachers at this point in the year — that I am TIRED? It’s that time of the year, after testing stress and pressure has been lifted, but immune systems are shot and influenza, colds, and all manner of viral infection spread like wildfire through schools, at the very same time that kids are responding to the warmer weather and approaching summer and going crazy . . .

So today’s post will be short. I wanted to highlight some great comments by a teacher that were added in belatedly on the group notes page I set up for my presentation on schools as ecosystems at EdCampNYC. Whoever you are out there, I’m listening, and I thank you for your thoughtful input.

As I think about your school as an ecosystem idea I think a lot more attention has to be placed on the systematization of school but in a way that allows it to change with the times and be fluid yet dependable. Often times schools are run based on personalities or in a dictatorial manner and we need to start running it from the bottom up. [Bold added]

So true. This idea of combining flexibility and systematization is a hard nut to crack.
How do we systematize the right things, while allowing for flexibility, and how do we do so in a way that allows for distributed leadership that enables communication and decision-making to travel upwards and across, not just top down?
This particular teacher had insight into that:

I think we need to strengthen teacher voice and in strengthening teacher voice we could strengthen our schools. The idea [Schools as Ecosystems] is MORE than cute it’s actually intriguing and viable. And it has stayed with me. [Bold and insertion added]

Thank you for that. And I strongly agree, strengthening teacher voice is key. For policy level aspects of this, I invite you to check out our page on teacher voice groups. I have worked with an awesome organization working to uplift and empower teacher voice called The VIVA Project. The VIVA Project works to plug teachers directly into the process of policymaking.

Within the school, however, how can we work to strengthen teacher voice, and set up structures and practices that better empower teachers? What kind of governance model will best cultivate trust and respect teacher voice in decision-making processes?

I’m just going to throw some quick ideas on this out there and let them hang, and I’d like to return to them in the future:

  • Collaboration and dialogue are key and must be formally implemented in a school — strong leadership is necessary to set the tone and structure for how and why teachers collaborate
  • The VIVA Project uses an online discussion forum called the idea exchange before initiating action plans and policy reports. Everyone At the Table has developed a structured conversation to engage and respect teacher perspectives around the issue of teacher evaluation and accountability. How can we systematize these kinds of structured democratic collaborations at a school level?

These are great points to bring to focus for looking at schools as ecosystems! Thank you for your input, and I welcome any other teachers to check out my presentation and add their perspectives on our group feedback page on Google Docs!

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