When Will Teachers be Empowered?


We hear so much about student empowerment.  We attend PD meetings about student empowerment.  We learn strategies to empower them. We put new behavioral practices in place that will empower our students.  But, almost never do you hear the words, "Teachers need to be empowered".  I wonder when we will hear those words. When will the words of teachers be valued? Teachers have a voice. We deserve to have that voice heard. 

Teachers are a school's best resource. They represent the district. They know the inner most workings of the district. They know their students and their families and their history. They know their curriculum. They know the best teaching practices. They know their teaching style. They know their students learning styles. They have experience. They have been trained academically and gone through internships and mentorships. And yet, once they are hired, they are not valued. Their voice goes silent. 

I have the privilege of substituting on the days that my classes don't meet. This gives me an opportunity to visit area schools and see what everyone is doing. I usually have an awesome experience. Take today for example. I got to be an art teacher. Yes, I said "I got to be an art teacher" . It was so much fun. I loved the lessons and the students' enthusiasm.  I wouldn't describe a previous experience  the same way.  In the latter experience, a student informed me that they were not going to do anything today. I went ahead and took roll and preceded with the lesson. The student told anyone who would listen that this was stupid and they weren't going to do it and I couldn't make them. I continued with the lesson, trying to ignore the outbursts, since everything I had tried had failed. Finally, the student stood up and said I'm going to the office. I'm not doing this stupid stuff.     

Unfortunately, this isn't an isolated event. Too many times I hear teachers tell similar stories about experiences in their own classrooms.  It seems to me that we've gone too far with empowering students when they think they can decide what they want to do and when they want to do it, or if they even want to do it.  We've gone too far with empowerment when the end result is entitlement. We've gone too far when students are allowed to treat adults with such disrespect. We've gone too far when the end result for the student is not learning a concept, but learning how to avoid something they don't like. 

Maybe we should turn this around. I don't like getting up before daylight to go to work. So, maybe I should just go to the office and tell them that I'm not going to do this anymore. It's stupid. I'll just get up when I feel like it and come to work.  Or maybe, I'll stop doing paperwork and concentrate on my lessons. After all, it takes a lot of my time to complete some of these forms.  Yes, I'm being sarcastic and no, I would never do either of these things, but it does make me feel better to say it.  

What I do want is for a teacher's voice to matter. Not, just one teacher's voice, but all voices. To blend together into a forum of educational growth and reform. I want teacher's voices to be heard and respected. For teachers to be viewed as the valuable educators that they are.  I know I'm asking for the moon, but it doesn't hurt to dream. Maybe someday teachers will be respected and valued and heard. 

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