Substantial conversations about teaching and schools cannot happen without the voices of teachers and principals. It seems obvious. Yet in too many places, educational policies are being written without our input, panels at education conferences are held without any teacher-speakers, and teacher expertise is routinely called into question.
For the last seven months, ED has taken one small step by publishing on our blog more first-hand accounts from practitioners than virtually any other source – pairing major policy announcements with powerful Voices from the Classroom written by teachers and principals who describe why these policies matter. When the Secretary announced a plan to make teaching in high-needs schools the best job in the world, we published a narrative from a teacher in the Bronx who shared how teaching there allows her to be an agent of change and to support her students in becoming agents of change too. When ED proposed a new rule to combat disparities in the treatment of students of color with disabilities, two special educators shared why such an action would make a difference in their schools.
We heard from a Spanish teacher at an all-girls school who incorporates computer science into her classes, a Baltimore principal who shared how his school is tackling chronic absenteeism, and a guidance counselor in Washington State who wrote about how her school is helping more of its students than ever become the firsts in their families to attend college. And these are only a few of the more than 30 teachers from more than 20 states whose stories we’ve published in the first half of the year.
Publishing the voices of teachers is just one of many efforts at ED that honors what teachers have to say. For example, ED hires cohorts of Teaching and Principal Ambassador Fellows, practitioners who spend a year with ED to do outreach to teachers in the field and help ED develop policies that affect schools; Secretary John King holds monthly Teas with Teachers; and thousands of teachers have participated in events associated with Teach to Lead, an initiative by the U.S. Department of Education, ASCD, and the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards to draw on teacher expertise to help drive transformation in schools.
All this matters. By amplifying the voices of our colleagues around the country – and someday maybe even yours – we say to teachers everywhere, we’re listening. We say, you’re the experts. We say, we need your voices.