Thursday, July 17, 2014

Teaching is a Profession

As I reflect on all 33 of Massachusetts' identified elements for excellence in education, I am humbled and challenged. To teach well is a comprehensive, multi-dimensional activity that far outpaces the simple model of a teacher handing out papers that many think of when they hear the title teacher.

Teaching well is not light work--it is work that includes multiple details, a professional attitude and demeanor, and an ability to develop, learn, and change throughout the years. Good teaching understands and responds to the current climate, and works to build the needed skills, attitudes, and efforts for a better future.

Many of our old practices, mandates, and rules related to teaching are outdated now. Attitudes of "punishing bad teachers" for all but the most unacceptable actions are not helpful, instead educational organizations should continually work with and for teachers to help each educator develop his/her skill to best teach children. As I read and reflect on all 33 elements outlined by Massachusetts, my first thought is that teachers are not superheroes, but then my second thought is that we can be proud that we work in a state that holds high expectations and regard for the work we do. While we won't all excel with all elements, we can certainly work towards greater and better efforts in each area--areas that matter when it comes to the lives and futures of our students.

Teachers can't do it alone. That's why educational organizations have to think about how they can best maximize professional learning and support so that every educator has what he/she needs to do a good job. Those who lead, but stand far from the classroom, need to make the time to spend a day teaching to really understand what it takes to do the job well. It's easy to forget the multiple tasks, decisions, and challenges a teacher faces every day once you leave the classroom, and that's why it's imperative that leadership plans and delivers a lesson now and then in order to lead and support educators with strength and promise.

Similarly, political leaders who make decisions about educational funding, personnel, and protocols, should also make it a part of their regular routine to plan and teach a number of lessons each year. Just think of the impact they could have on students, and the resulting sensitivity to educational policy that would come after a day of teaching.

We spend too much time in our organizations, media, and politics on issues that don't matter, and not enough time in working with the problems that exist in thoughtful, strategic ways to find solutions--solutions that matter and solutions that make a better world.