Investing in our educators: The time is now | Chalkboard Project

Investing in our educators: The time is now

Monday, March 18, 2013 Hilda Roselli

Every day over 28,000 teachers walk into Oregon’s public schools to teach, support, and guide over 560,000 K-12 students. They make hundreds of decisions each hour, determining how best to engage a student, reteach a concept, respond to a behavior, assess a child’s situation, and inspire learning. And when they drive home at night, many are still replaying the day, planning for tomorrow, and reflecting on what they can do to reach the day’s reluctant learners.

Teachers are doing this work during a time when they are expected to be skilled and nimble in the use of newly adopted Common Core State Standards in Language Arts and Math and soon in Science to present lessons requiring deeper levels of understanding and application from all students. They are applying language acquisition strategies to serve over 58,000 Limited English Proficient students. They are facing new national level assessments that are still being developed but will move beyond the use of the types of test items previously used on OAKs. They are doing this in a context in which students bring a myriad of personal challenges to school each day that demand personal connections with adults who notice them and care about them as individuals.

Some of them are veteran teachers while others are still acquiring the 10,000 hours (8 years) of focused practice that Daniel Pink describes as necessary to become expert in one’s work. Some are lucky enough to have a support team made up of peers, administrators and coaches who know that sharing strategies, deconstructing lessons that fail to reach some students, reviewing student work to look for gaps and progress is also part of teaching and doesn’t have to be done in isolation. However, the majority of teachers do this work alone, using whatever planning time they have to keep up with grading, parent conferences, or school committee work. Time embedded within the work day to reflect with other educators, brainstorm better approaches, try new resources, or to observe in each other’s classrooms is an anomaly, not a typical feature.

I don’t often use business and industry examples but I’m pretty sure that Samsung employees had time together to figure out how to work with the new phone released this week. Starbucks introduced their successful Frappuccino drinks based on suggestions from frontline employees who knew what would sell. And I’m sure that Boeing drew upon their employees working together to find a solution to a battery fire hazard on their fleet of Dreamliners.

The point is that teachers ARE Oregon’s frontline on changing the educational equation and ultimately the outcomes we seek for a more educated citizenry. So, what can legislators do to support this corps of educators? While some advocates will want to invest every dollar in reducing class sizes and hiring back teachers, I would argue that investing in the educators we have is even more critical. HB 3233 supports an investment of time for educators to collaborate and share what works, when it works, and how it works in different contexts accompanied by resources that can be accessed by all educators, even those who are in teacher preparation programs.

HB 3233 asks Oregon to make a commitment to developing capacity within the education profession knowing that:

Collaborative engagement of teachers is crucial to effective teaching;
Supporting teacher collaboration promotes student learning; and
Acknowledging effective teachers as instructional leaders helps to attract and retain strong, well-prepared professionals.

What will the resource of a statewide Network offer teachers?

Dedicated time for educators to collaborate around refining instructional practice
Statewide on-demand access to professional development resources
Access to instructional coaches, mentors, and visits to other educators’ classrooms
Opportunities for leadership and career advancement
Resources for recruiting and retaining a more diverse workforce
Stronger clinical partnerships between educator preparation programs and districts to prepare classroom-ready teachers

Teaching is complex and ever changing. For Oregon to reach 40/40/20 and any of the OEIB strategic goals, Oregon must invest in statewide capacity to develop a culture of leadership and support practitioners who collaboratively improve learning experience and outcomes for students.

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