Don't vilify teachers, offer them support and training, and allow the best ones a place at the table with policymakers when it comes to making important decisions about public school education.
Those were the resounding themes at Education Nation's Teacher Townhall meeting, conducted by Brian Williams Sunday in New York City. Teachers from around the country participated in the two-hour discussion at the event, as well as online by sending in comments and questions to the anchor. Organizers of the event have been criticized for not including teachers on any of the panel discussions taking place on Monday and Tuesday.
Impassioned educators took the microphone and vented their frustrations and hopes during the townhall meeting. Here are some of the sentiments, in teachers' own words.
- "Schools are set up so that teachers don’t get much feedback in the first few years. I’ve seen teachers who want to be good, but they’re not always able to get it without help. We need to better prepare beginner teachers. One year of peer coaching is not enough."
- "People outside teaching don’t understand what it’s like. When they make decisions for us with policy and funding and don’t understand, what are we supposed to do?"
- "Teachers are considered a target for all of society’s ills. Teachers can’t fix every problem. I don’t need to be attacked. I need to be supported. I need wonderful feedback, that’s how I’ll get to grow. That’s what we all want. Passion isn’t enough, criticism isn’t enough, support needs to be there."
- "We don’t agree what a good teacher is. They talk about how good teaching makes a difference without having a conversation about what good teaching is."
- "As a nation, we need to understand that education is expensive and we have to admit that we need to put resources in instead of cutting them out."
- "The problem is poverty. We have too many kids who come to us with intractable problems. One of the great things that charter schools can do is to [take care of] the kids in those schools who need TLC, small classes, healthcare, individual attention."
- "We’ve failed a certain subset of students. Kids of color, poor kids -- and we’ve failed holistically. We need to compensate teachers as professionals. I hired a teacher who had a masters from Stanford. I had to offer her one of the lowest in the Bay Area. She has to work in the most challenging district, with the most challenging kids, and I had to tell her, 'You won’t own your own home because you’re making $40,000 a year."
- "Education reform needs to start in classroom with the best teachers. Policymakers have good intentions, but by the time it gets to classroom, it doesn’t meet those needs. The solution is to take America’s best teachers, bring them to the table, have them have a say, sit with policymakers and say, 'This is what will happen if you do this policy.' That’s what we need to fix public education."