Encouraging teacher voice can improve school culture
- Writing for eSchool News, education and communications consultant Jennifer Abrams details how educators can develop a positive voice to improve school culture, based on her own experiences in making the move from the classroom to a teacher leader/coach position.
- Abrams writes that a large part of those efforts must focus on building a "climate of trust" in which teachers collectively believe that what they do every day is making a positive impact on the lives of their students as well as on their communities at large.
- To foster positive school cultures, educators should use their voice by listening as much as talking, considering how they deliver their message (ensuring they don't just talk about themselves or only offer their own solutions rather than hearing out those put forth by others), keep their tone in mind, and consider how they ask questions.
Alongside the expected return of educational decision-making power to the state and district level under ESSA has come a push for a greater degree of decision-making influence from the bottom up rather than the top down. By giving teachers a sense of empowerment and agency in their daily activities, administrators can build a culture that encourages innovation and provides educators a greater sense of professional fulfillment.
A panel at this year's SXSWedu conference detailed how teachers are often a school's or district's greatest untapped innovation engines. As Gwinnett County Public Schools Teacher of the Year Valerie Lewis told those in attendance, "If we’re bored to death, we’re not giving our kids the best of us," further elaborating on her own experiences creating a living museum for Black History Month and an "Ed Obstacles" event inspired by her 9-year-old son's obsession with the American Ninja Warrior TV series.
The power of teacher voice has also been seen in schools like Minnesota's Impact Academy at Orchard Lake, where Superintendent Lisa Snyder allowed a group of teachers to reimagine the school as three "vertical, K-5 communities" that each have autonomy to make decisions like knocking down walls for open class environments where students can work across grade levels in their "right fit" groups.
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