Teacher voice is an important gift both inside and outside the classroom. All teachers can and should take advantage of it. As a teacher you have the right to question the education value of things as it relates to and affects your classroom, teaching, and students,—as long as you don’t abuse the privilege. Saying yes to everything, or staying quiet when things don’t seem quite right, may keep you out of trouble, or off the radar, but it’s a far too simple escape when you know something needs to be said, and you know you’re the one to say it.
I remember sitting in a large auditorium at an opening school week meeting for teachers. The curriculum head was giving a presentation on a new grading system, which was software based. To me it was simply awful. It didn’t allow for anything other than numeric, percentages with letter equivalents of A through F. I thought no one is going to go for this anymore—at least without some way of finding out and sharing more about what students really know with more in-depth assessment. I was wrong.
A very loud voice shouted, “Here, Here!” while clapping louder than thunder, or what I considered humanly possible. He continued, “This is exactly what we need! It’s so easy. It will save us so much time.” A few more chimed in, and I hate to say it, but I will, they weren’t the most dedicated professionals in the room. I said something. I’m sure you’ve had similar experiences. To remain quiet when you know there’s more to be said is of no help—ever. In most cases, others will chime in if you do say something, especially if it is beneficial to teaching and students.
Now, you may get it from both sides, so be prepared. Sometimes you be like the kid who’s asked the teacher for more homework. Be ready to hear things like, “Hey, Chowderhead, sit down, you’re all wrong! We want simple and easy!” or “You’re right, if we’re using rubics and assessing with words such as improved, or needs improvement, working toward mastery, etc., our grading system needs to fit that, too.”
After some discussions at levels far about my rank and pay scale, we did use a modified version of that grading system that had narrative as well. It took into account our daily student assessment and wasn’t all quiz- or test-based. It took more effort to do, but it was better, because it told a better-personalized learner’s story. I never thought it was great, but what assessment is—ever. I do know, though, that it was better with good narratives attached to the mostly meaningless letter grades.
While the solutions and situations may change the opportunities to be part of the daily teaching discussions haven’t. Never lose your Teacher Voice.
Ken Royal is an educator with 34 years of classroom/school and instructional technology experience, as well as a blogger on all things education technology. Teaching accomplishments include: 4-time district teacher of the year, Connecticut Middle School Teacher of the Year, as well as Bill and Melinda Gates award for Technology School of Excellence. He is a Promethean storyteller. Follow @KenRoyal on Twitter.