Recently, I read an article by Jen Orr called “Raising Our Teacher Voices: A Call for A New Generation of Leadership”. Ms. Orr is a teacher in nearby Fairfax County who was chosen as a 2013 ASCD Emerging Leader. Consequently, she was asked to serve as a panelist at ASCD’s 2014 Whole Child Symposium.
Orr, like many others, believes that a teacher leader is someone who “impacts education beyond their own classroom”; however, she is quick to point out that she believes it is more than just the work teachers accomplish with administrators within their own schools. Orr wants the idea of teacher leaders to encompass far more than that.
“I believe this model of teacher leadership, one in which teachers are actively and meaningfully engaged in all parts of the world of education, is critical because teachers have a dog in this fight.” Orr wants to see teachers included in conversations and actions they are typically not: decision making and policy, informative writing about education for more than just fellow educators, and professional development that allows teachers to share with each other both their successes and failures.
Orr is quick to point out that the only dog in the fight teachers have is the students; it isn’t the distraction of power, money, or tenure that it can be for others in education. The teachers’ perspective is one that can not be rivaled. While many, many others are making decisions that affect daily instruction and policy, only “teachers have a unique understanding of those impacts.” While obviously, it takes a village, and each voice is valuable, the “voices least heard are often teachers and students, ironically the voices closest to the issues”.
While reading Orr’s article, I found myself nodding my head in agreement. After 18 years in the classroom, I couldn’t agree with her more. There have many times throughout my career when all I wanted was someone to take the time to simply ask the teachers’ opinion before implementing change. That doesn’t mean as teachers we expect to always get “our way”, but knowing that our voice, the voice of the ones who are in the trenches day after day, is at least being considered goes a long, long way. Our focus is, and always be, the success of our students, and by empowering us as teacher leaders we in turn can empower our students as student leaders.