Sunday, May 12, 2013

RESPECT Teacher Movement

As we were getting up to leave from our teacher conversation at the Department of Education on Wednesday afternoon the discussion leaders handed out a leaflet on a new teaching movement coming out of the Department of Ed called RESPECT Teaching.
The ED website states that Recognizing Educational Success, Professional Excellence,and Collaborative Teaching (RESPECT), is a teacher-led movement that has been two years in the making. I'm fascinated, hopeful, and a bit hesitant all at once.

The opening paragraphs in the Blueprint published in April 2012 reads like a teacher call-to-arms. Acknowledging our hard work, dedication and commitment to our jobs, while also stating that our children need more. It lays out a plan for reform that (in my opinion) should have been put in place in the beginning, before NCLB brought teachers vs politicians at war with one another.

The Blueprint doesn't look like it changes anything about current reform methods, or that it is calling for dramatic decrease in testing. What it does is bring teachers into the reform discussion, honoring their talent and hard work and acknowledging what teachers truly need as professionals to grow and thrive.

Reading it makes me excited to be a teacher and gives me a desire to see reform in action. I see my current school within the profession it describes- a focus on continuous growth, an emphasis on collaboration, a positive school culture that leads to the successful education of students, and an engaged community that plays a strong roll in the school. All of these are a part of the seven critical components of the RESPECT project.

I worry that it may be too late. If the Bush administration had rolled this out along with No Child Left Behind we may have reacted to the mandate differently. The only difference in RESPECT and current practices is that it comes from teachers themselves, and instead of saying "we need improvement" instead acknowledges true difficulties in the profession, highlights ways we can improve ourselves while being positive yet firm about the need for growth and change. It doesn't change what is currently happening in education policy, but it states what is happening from a teacher prospective.

What if this was how the education reform movement started?  When high stake testing was introduced to us it was to "hold us accountable", implying that if one didn't hold us accountable we would simply let the children eat bon-bons and watch movies. As educators we became defensive (and rightly so) as the world seemed to turn against us. Reforms didn't come from within, but from politics. Wait, we screamed, we are accountable! We are hard workers! We don't need tests to prove that! What the world heard was "we don't want change" and the political spin became "lazy teachers don't care if children learn".

Sadly, now the RESPECT movement reads like a nice thought, but skeptical educators who are tired of constant reform will see it as a wolf in sheep's clothing, trying hard to win over the teachers in the midst of the war.

Personally I read it with regret and wonder what our schools would look like if a teacher-led movement like this had started education reform. I can only dream of where we'd be.

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