Education reform is well-meaning but does not always further teachers’ ability to teach. I would like to put forth a shopping list of teacher needs. Our primary need is to add back our lost funding, because our students are slipping through the cracks as programs are cut, and class sizes burst at the seams. Oregon teachers need to work in schools where the focus is not on cutting resources.
Secondarily, we need:
Restore lost teaching days, and give us a longer school year. It’ll be interesting to see the results of Chicago’s experiment with a longer school year, but I bet more hours in school will mean greater learning gains.
Limit the amount of time that we have to do administrative work like data entry. In Japan, teachers teach longer hours and have assistants who grade and do production work. We used to have instructional assistants that would handle some of this, but cuts to personnel and increased demands at the top for accountability through data collection has cut into our time to plan quality instruction.
Reduce the amount of meeting time spent on school-wide protocols and administrative concerns, and replace it with staff meetings that give us instructional ideas.
Provide us with opportunities to learn from each other. Much of what we do is in isolation, so we need time to form bonds with our colleagues and to learn from each other.
Trust us to make decisions about what we need for quality instruction by providing us a class/ department budget where we can buy what we need to meet the needs of the individuals in our class. Often district-purchased materials go unused while we have to write grants or pay out of pocket for materials we need.
Give us colleagues that we can trust to be competent by putting in place more rigorous requirements for earning a teaching degree. We see student teachers who make egregious mistakes in front of students in simple math computation and spelling. We can teach people how to teach, but they need to be well-educated in order to be effective.
Give us meaningful resources that reliably give us demonstrations of great teaching. I read lots of teacher blogs for ideas, but this process is very hit and miss and time-consuming. It would be nice to have a central Common Core Standards or ODE blog with video clips of effective lessons taught by teachers that cover the various standards.
Provide more technology training for us to use the web and other resources effectively. We need more access to technology for our students in order to motivate and prepare them for the future.
While I am going on about what teachers need to be successful, add to the list: students who come prepared to learn. Not enough kids enter kindergarten with preschool experience. We have kindergarteners who are essentially one to two years behind their preschool graduate peers. These kids play “catch up” their entire school career. Kids with poor nutrition or unstable family lives often need intensive interventions to succeed in school, and too many of our students in Oregon fall into these categories.
Changing the organization of public education in Oregon, rolling out new standards, redoing the testing system, and focusing on teacher evaluations are important, but do not directly impact what goes on in the classroom. Let’s get to the heart of the matter. Give teachers time, trust and training, and every child in Oregon will reap the rewards.
- Teacher Preparation
- Educator Workforce
- Quality Educators