George Lucas Educational Foundation
Teacher Leadership

The Courage to Believe in Teachers

    Early in my career I learned that the best way to manage a classroom was to inspire students rather than provoke fear. Fear created anxiety, doubt, and confrontation. When inspired, students anticipated class. They were eager participants. They enjoyed the learning process. They performed better.

    Much of what I see in education now is wrong. Students are tested more. Teachers are developed less and evaluated more punitively. The arts, electives, and other programs are getting cut. It is creating the very climate that I know does not work. There is too much punishing and not enough inspiring. There is too much fear and not enough celebration.

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    It is easy to get frustrated. It is easy to believe that things are getting worse.

    But there is also room for hope.

    It takes courage to believe that things are getting better, and they are. I believe that teachers are doing remarkable work from the ground up, not the top down. The more I connect with teachers from across the country on Twitter, Voxer, and Edutopia, the more I realize that we are succeeding in spite of what’s going on, not because of it.

    Why do I believe so strongly in the future of teachers? We are succeeding on our own terms in our own way.

    Here are three reasons why I have faith in the profession:

    1. We Are Steering Our Own PD

    Pick any social media channel and you will find teachers sharing ideas, offering support, and building professional communities. Teaching Twitter chats dominate what's trending each night. Pinterest has images from classroom decorations to lesson plan templates and everything inbetween. New Facebook groups are popping up each day. What's the commonality? Teachers are developing themselves long after the school bell rings. And just when you think the teacher work week has ended, there we are Saturday mornings, at EdCamps, developing ourselves some more.

    2. We Are Participating in Policy

    It is no longer just unions advocating on behalf of teachers. The National Network of State Teachers of the Year is one organization that is getting in front of policy makers and ensuring that teacher voices are heard. It is advocating for policies that create "the kind of profession that attracts, develops, retains, leverages and advances top talent, particularly through teacher leadership." Led by Katherine Bassett, herself a former state teacher of the year in New Jersey, the network is working to improve "the conditions, capacity and culture necessary to support great teaching and learning."

    3. We Are Innovating

    Despite the push for scripted lessons and regimented learning, teachers are pushing back with more creative learning environments. We are experimenting with new technologies and are using student-centered approaches like the flipped classroom, genius hour, and project-based learning. We are developing new ways to bring excitement back to the classroom, proving that we teaching to the test is a poor instructional strategy. Rather, we rise above that by teaching to the whole child, engaging curiosities and fostering wonder in the most dynamic ways possible.  

    This piece was originally submitted to our community forums by a reader. Due to audience interest, we've preserved it. The opinions expressed here are the writer's own.