Educators understand school policy better than the rest of us do. They’re living it and breathing it every day. We need to do more to include teacher voice in the process of policy-making.
Teachers play a central role in my campaign. I am fortunate to have teacher friends who have mentored me in curriculum issues and teaching techniques. They have shared under-the-radar replicable classroom success stories. They have pointed out unintended consequences I might not have otherwise foreseen. They have made me a stronger, more effective advocate for what our children need.
Some of our campaign volunteers:
- Joanna Schimizzi, our events coordinator, is a MeckEd Teacher of Excellence.
- James Ford, the 2014 NC Teacher of the Year, gave the introduction speech at our kickoff event.
- Maura MacKinnon, photographer, is a highly-regarded Language Arts teacher.
- Lou Nachman, photographer, recently retired after 23 years of teaching for CMS.
I am actively engaging teachers for advice, and will continue to do so throughout the campaign and beyond.
Our very first event in May was a roundtable with a dozen educators hosted in the home of a teacher. In advance, I submitted a long list of questions, and each teacher chose two that they felt particularly passionate about addressing. See my list of questions here.
It was such a success that we hosted a second teacher roundtable, following my June 19 campaign kickoff at McClintock Middle School.
Here are key takeaways from what the educators shared with me:
- Evaluations. Teachers feel that the staff evaluation process needs to be more helpful. Evaluations should be for coaching, not for punishing. Teachers want feedback on what they’re doing well, what they could do better, and how they can grow. That last piece — how to grow — is often missing from the process. They proposed peer evaluations as a tool that could possibly be powerful.
- New teacher support. We need a better structure in place for guiding and supporting new teachers. One teacher experienced Teach Charlotte as a good model.
- Interaction. In some schools, the interaction level between teachers and their principals and assistant principals is low. The teachers I spoke with have a theory as to why. Principals and assistant principals have seen their job descriptions, mandates, and paperwork grow dramatically in recent years, while staffing levels have been cut. Many simply have too much on their plate to be able to truly support and coach their teaching staff. And principals need better professional development and support as well.
Thank you to all the teachers for taking the time to share your insights with me. It was a generous and powerful act. Understanding your perspective will make me a better school board member.
Shockingly, there have been recent incidents of state legislators intimidating and shaming teachers for speaking up about bills that affect the classroom. Legislation is currently in committee that some see as an attempt to muzzle the teacher voice. This is backwards.
When education policy is guided by engaged teachers, we will be in good hands. And on top of that, when educators are truly respected and valued, they are less likely to be recruited away to different school districts or career paths.
Please join me in acknowledging the professionalism, knowledge and wisdom of our educators. The job they do is critically important to our society. Encourage your elected officials to listen to teacher voices. As a result, we will see improvements in our education system, and our children will benefit.