That was not unusual, and would not be unusual today. For too long, for too many discussions when people converse about our schools and our students, somehow the voices of those who are most intimately familiar with the issues of teaching and education are not part of the process. As a result, one might argue that our plans to improve public education are flawed, perhaps even damaging.
I come to this subject from an unusual perspective. Unlike many teachers, I have been able to get my voice heard and my perspective included at levels ranging from policies in my individual school to conversations with members of the House and Senators who do not represent me.
But mine is only one voice.
There are many other voices, some of which have been included but far too many excluded in the making of the decisions driving our educational policy, nationally, within the states and in local districts. There are examples where it has been included. This includes teacher evaluation and compensation in Denver. It includes those teachers who have served as Teacher Ambassadors in the U. S. Department of Education. It includes state and local Teachers of the Year to whom the relevant departments have turned as resources.
But being included at the table may not matter if the voice is not listened to. Former National Teacher of the Year Anthony Mullen has addressed this during his tenure as the voice of the nation’s teachers. In this blog post he wrote:
Teachers are being left out of the process of designing national standards and this is a recipe for disaster. Committees comprised of government officials, academics, and policy makers form an incomplete framework without the support of teachers. Teachers, after all, will be expected to implement the standards once adopted. The malformed thought that teachers should not play an integral role in helping develop national standards is just that: a malformed thought. I can feel a palpable anger when standing next to teachers who feel ignored and marginalized by the committees designing national standards. It’s time to let teachers help right a wobbly table.
But perhaps more pertinent is what he experienced, and about which he wrote, in the event where he begins his blog post:
I am a fly on the wall sitting at a table. Seated at a round table are three state governors, one state senator, a Harvard professor and author, and a strange little man who assumes the role of group moderator.
After he listens to them discuss for some time what needs to be done about education, he is finally asked what he thinks. Please note his words, which I quote extensively:
Where do I begin? I spent the last thirty minutes listening to a group of arrogant and condescending non-educators disrespect my colleagues and profession. I listened to a group of disingenuous people whose own self-interests guide their policies rather than the interests of children. I listened to a cabal of people who sit on national education committees that will have a profound impact on classroom teaching practices. And I heard nothing of value.
“I’m thinking about the current health care debate,” I said. “And I am wondering if I will be asked to sit on a national committee charged with the task of creating a core curriculum of medical procedures to be used in hospital emergency rooms.”