I am still feeling so lucky having had the opportunity to participate in the first ever #edcampUSA yesterday, hosted at the Department of Education. Quite exciting to see the interest in the #edcamp movement from our US Secretary of Education and his staff and their eagerness to hear us talk and ask us question. The day certainly highlighted the value of free flowing, organic discussion.
Instead of breaking down the day in this post, I am going to talk about one thing that keeps lingering in my mind. As I looked around the room when I first arrive yesterday, I realized that I was surrounded by some of the people I admire most on twitter. Some of them I had met before, some of them I was able to finally meet for the first time. But then I realized that the majority of those people were not classroom teachers anymore. And it made me think of a recent conversation that I had with a young colleague of mine, a wonderful teacher with a great rapport with the kids. She is thinking of leaving the classroom because she feels so bogged down.
It’s not secret that many of our best and brightest are leaving education. Why? From my viewpoint, I have experienced this piling on of responsibilities – the more you do, and the better you do it, the more that is added to your load. And in teaching, you don’t get monetarily rewarded for these ‘extras’. You just do them, and keep saying yes, and at some point realize that all of this work is unsustainable. (And that your friend who is working half as many hours as you are is making twice your paycheck… but that’s not the point of this post.)
Could we reward teachers for exceptional work with time? Time to innovate, create, connect, share, and collaborate. A type of rotating, lead teacher position, perhaps. Maybe this teacher would teach 3 classes instead of 5 for a year, and be tasked to mentor other teachers and bring new ideas into their classrooms. This type of partnering might also serve to address the issue of how to inspire some of the complacent teachers within our schools to try something new and re-spark their imagination. Maybe this teacher would best be served by taking a sabbatical. This time could be used to develop a new class or new idea, to travel and see best-practices in action, to connect with teachers/programs/and companies, to share stories highlighting great things that are happening in our classroom, those around us, or those far away. Creativity and innovation require time, after all. And we all deserve to be recognized for great work.
PS – If you’re looking for session notes from the day, they can all be found here.
I think your idea to reward teachers with time to develop, innovate and share is ideal. Monetary rewards are not the answer and can often lead to an adverse effect. As we know from Google, that “20% time” away from normal duties is what breeds innovation. One thing to note is that mentoring requires a foundation of strong relationships. If a teacher doesn’t have time to build this foundation, the mentoring won’t go very far. Also, the leadership would need to help define this role so teachers understand its purpose and how it’s non-evaluative. Your post definitely has me thinking of ways to make this work in my setting. Thanks for sharing your reflection!