A Memo on Teacher Voice

Jose Vilson Jose

tightrope walking

Why do people always feel the need to limit the potential of teacher voice?

Last year, I expounded on redefining teacher voice, and what that means for true education reform:

Teacher voice is the collective and individual expression of meaningful, professional opinion based on classroom experience and expertise.

What developed shortly thereafter were a plethora of discussions of what that looks like, and how we employ that in different settings. I came to realize a few things:

  1. People aren’t always ready to change the paradigm to make decisions more democratically.
  2. Teachers don’t always have the time or energy besides doing the best job possible in the classroom.
  3. The education debate as a whole hasn’t evolved from just picking one side and one group of people to side with.

These points make for a lack of teachers activating their voices. For those of us who do this selflessly (sans incentives, rewards, titles, and permission), it often feels like punching a wall with your bare knuckles, or breaking down a cement building with an ice pick. On one end, you have a well-versed, well-funded machine that has a set of coherent talking points on one end, and a passionate and divergent cluster of people on the other end.

These ends aren’t equal by any measure, in wealth, in numbers, or in self-actualization.

Here’s a few things we can do to build up our voices individually and collectively:

  1. Educators can change the narrative by pushing for our stories to come to the fore with the right research and best practices to back them up.
  2. Educators can support each other (within reason) as often as possible, linking articles, blogs, and tweets of people they like and …
  3. Educators can highlight the things education deformers a lot less.

Coming up with solutions ourselves, finding the right people willing to push those ideas, and building alliances takes a lot of hard work, but, as we deconstruct others’ arguments, we can build together. How do we get all those people to our table?

Jose, who thanks Sabrina Stevens for helping me hash out these thoughts …