Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Here's a Thought: Reform Driven by Passionate Educators

Ask yourself why you or someone you know chose a profession in education for a living.  Is it because of the paycheck? Do you like the hours? Do the working conditions suit you? Is it because you couldn’t decide on a major until halfway through your Bachelor’s Degree and figured that teaching would be your best option?  If you answered yes to any of these questions then you are definitely in the wrong line of work. If you answered no and are committed to working tirelessly to ensure that all children learn and are successful at it then why do you not have a place at the education reform table?

 Image credit: http://bigeducationape.blogspot.com/2009_12_23_archive.html

Being an educator means that you are a part of the noblest profession.  Each day is a gift as it provides you with an opportunity to make a positive difference in the life of a child.  Quite frankly it takes a special person to be an educator.  You understand that your reward for a long days work is not money or bonuses, but instead the satisfaction of knowing that the lesson you spent a great deal of time preparing resulted in student learning.  One of the greatest gifts you can ever receive is the acknowledgment from a past student thanking you for never giving up on him/her when others would have.  You realize that the summer months are an opportunity to become better.  As a result you use this time to engage in professional growth opportunities, read the latest research, and prepare innovative lessons.  In your eyes the glass is always half full.

The educator that I just described is driven by passion.  They love working with children, will do what it takes to do the job right, never fall victim to the bitterness that is found in all schools, and are committed to continual improvement.  Educators driven by a passion to help children learn are the most important components of our society and should be treated as such.  Those driven by passion:
  • Understand that all students can learn.
  • Are not afraid of failure because they realize that this is a means to improve their craft.
  • Are compassionate even when pushed to the brink.
  • Treat professional development as an opportunity as opposed to an annoyance.
  • Openly share their ideas, lessons, and opinions with others.  Their mantra is “together we are better”.
  • Regularly communicate with parents regularly before and after the school day to keep them abreast of their child’s progress.
  • Consistently model life-long learning, especially during the summer months.
  •  Regularly reflect in order to enhance teaching and learning.
  • Create and foster a student-centered learning culture.
  • View the evaluation process as a growth opportunity.
  • Realize that there will be some bad days, but these are far outnumbered by the great ones.
  • Serve as unofficial mentors to others that need support and feedback.
  • Embrace change that is in the best interests of the entire school community.
  •  Are not afraid to admit when they are wrong.
Reform in education begins with passion.  Educators, those who are in the trenches working tirelessly to help all children learn, should be in the driver's seat when it comes to reform.  They have not only experienced success in terms of increasing achievement, by are driven by a passion to guide all students on a path to success.  These are the change agents we need to reform education, not those individuals or groups that have no vested interest or experience working with students in a public school.  


  1. Thank you so much for you inspiring words that are absolutely true. I wouldn't trade my career as an educator for anything.

  2. First, I have to say yours is only one of two education blogs I sub to, even though I have been an educator for nearly all of my working life. As one of our schools "old warhorses," I find myself turning into one of those teachers I used to loathe--negative, complaining,'can't get jazzed about the job'--folks. I used to be excited to go to work every day, to see what kind of difference I could make. Now, just a year and a half later, I spend an hour on Saturday looking for another job. Any suggestions regarding how to get pumped up again?

  3. Eric,

    This is a fantastic post, and a great way to get the day started. I could not agree more, the most meaningful, beneficial, longest lasting reforms in education will come not from state capitals or Washington D.C., but from our classrooms.

    I think you'd really find value in a couple of resources that I have also been following, the Center for Teaching quality, who published the book "Teaching 2030" is doing a lot of work with exactly what you describe in your post. In addition, Oakland University (a school near where I work) has started a graduate level program in Teacher Leadership.

    Tomorrow night, the Center for Teaching Quality is also having a Twitter chat at the #Teaching2030 hashtag. This time the topic is teacher evaluation.

    Again, great post, thanks for getting me fired up to get the day started!

  4. Kirby:

    Drama and politics aside, always remember the driving force for what we do...kids! The ability to reach even once student and place him/her on the path to success will/should pump up any educator. Always remember that you have the unique opportunity to positively impact the life of a child each and every day.

  5. Well constructed. This extends on what I was blogging in as regards the UK system here: http://largerama.creativeblogs.net/2011/11/27/link/
    Utter madness

  6. What an inspirational post. Teaching IS a privilege and it is our responsibility to ignite a desire and passion for lifelong learning.
    I am going to share this with colleagues tomorrow. A welcome tonic at the end of term.

  7. Eric, thanks for sharing. Educators are brilliant bridge builders who must never cease to explore and connect.

  8. Hey Pal,

    Overall, I like your list. It articulates the characteristics of accomplished educators in a clear and concise way.

    This one is easier said than done, though:

    Are not afraid of failure because they realize that this is a means to improve their craft.

    I'm not afraid of improving my craft, but I'm definitely more afraid of "failure" today than ever before because "failure" is defined by nothing other than the scores that my students earn on end of grade tests.

    Worse yet, "failure" has HUGE consequences for teachers today -- our pay is tied to "failure." Our continued employment is tied to "failure."

    The honest truth is that #edpolicy decisions have created working environments that do NOTHING to encourage teachers to take risks that might lead to failure -- and I'm not sure what teachers can do to change that.

    Just asking teachers to take risks when the risks carry such incredible consequences isn't likely to lead to the kinds of system wide changes we need in order to keep schools relevant.


    Any of this make sense?