Wednesday, March 20, 2013

No Permission Needed

Education reform continues to be a hot topic and sadly teachers are often caught in the crossfire. I’ve recently participated in a number of educational reform conversations in a variety of settings and have been struck by how unempowered many teachers are feeling.  I am encouraged by the number of teachers who understand the need for real change in education, but frustrated that many don’t seem to feel they have the permission or support needed to make the changes they envision. The lack of support and fear of putting themselves out there seems to be inhibiting some teachers from adding their expertise and professional opinion to the global conversation. Imagine what would be possible if we were able to tap into the “native genius” and expertise of every teacher at a school, within a school district, within a state, within a country... The possibilities are endless.  

This idea of professionals needing permission to act on what they know is best for students is concerning.  How have we gotten to this point in education?  Perhaps it’s time to redefine what teachers need permission for and have an explicit conversation around expectations.  In my opinion, teachers shouldn’t ever need permission to:
  • make the best instructional decisions for students in their class
  • be learners in front of their students
  • take risks that benefit students in their class
  • rethink the resources & strategies they are using to instruct students
  • ask administrators for support in providing for the needs of students
  • publish their work or their students’ work to a wider audience

This is probably only the beginning of what could be a very long list, but you get the idea.  

I feel fortunate to work in a school district where we value teacher opinions and expertise.  We have hired teachers in LASD, because they are knowledgeable, passionate and caring. We have placed great trust in our teachers.  Our administrative team encourages teachers to take risks, rethink instruction, pilot programs, challenge assumptions and push back on the way we have always done things.  In order to realize our vision of revolutionizing learning for all students we need every teacher within our organization to rethink current practices and take risks that are good for students.  Without this type of culture how do you ensure you are providing the very best learning environment for all students?  My hope is that we move from a culture of teachers seeking permission, to a culture of teachers acting in the best interests of student learning at all costs.

Contributed by Alyssa Gallagher, Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum & Instruction

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