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Saturday, March 19, 2016

Invite Teacher Voice in Ways that Count

In general, I am very happy with the way education is handled in Massachusetts. I feel that most information is shared openly and there is typically lead time for many changes. Also the State tends to stay on top of new research and efforts which helps educators to present a top notch program.

Recently the State has reached out to educators for information. I believe this may be a way to enlist greater teacher voice. The problem with much of the new outreach is that the requests are very lengthy and detailed requiring significant research, time, and attention on behalf of any educators who respond to the requests. There is no compensation for this extra time and there is no time-on-task for this effort. Therefore, a teacher has to have multiple extra after-school hours to do this work. The fact that only teachers with the extra time and will to complete these requests are the ones who are being heard does not serve our work well.

Instead, I believe Massachusetts should reach out for teacher voice in the following ways:
  • Invite teacher voice and choice by providing time-on-task for this share. For example, perhaps a diverse group of 100 teachers would be invited to share their thoughts on a matter during a school day while the State covers the cost of substitute teachers.
  • Provide compensation to educators who spend time after school contributing to these surveys. If an educator is spending two hours on a survey, that means that educator may not have the time to cook dinner, care for children, or do their typical after school work. If compensation is provided, then those educators might be able to afford a dinner out, an extra hour of day care, or possibly other support to enable them to have that extra time to thoughtfully research and complete surveys.
  • Create opportunities for educator share and contribution during summer weeks and provide compensation for that time. 
Teacher voice is important when it comes to teaching and learning well. However because most teachers are on task with students most minutes of a day and then spending the time after school prepping lessons and caring for personal matters, I think that to enlist teacher voice with true commitment will require looking for ways to provide teachers with time and/or compensation in order to give them the support they need to contribute with care and depth. 

This does not have to cost extra money, but may require re-looking at organizational structure and budgets to reallocate time and money to enlist greater educator voice in ways that matter.