All teachers deserve support.
Seems pretty simple, doesn't it? Our district strategic plan motto is "All together for all students." There's a lot of all in there, and I wish we could extend it to teachers. But the problem is, both locally and nationally, teachers' level of support varies greatly. There are a lot of different reasons for this, but I want to focus on one that has popped up in my world a lot: teachers get different support based on what subject they teach.
It's no secret that I spend a lot of time advocating for "specials" or "electives" - art, music, PE, theatre, and dance. You could even add other electives such as world languages and CTE courses in there! I believe that these classes are incredibly important to develop well-rounded human beings, and beyond that, they often are engagement hooks and the reason students are in school. After graduation, many students will follow these paths as hobbies or things they do in their free time - their education in these classes really influences their lives, and should be valued!
Yet we don't see a lot of that when it comes to teacher support.
- How many times has a whole staff been required to sit through a professional development meeting on LA or math? What about art or PE? (I can't count the number of times I was trained on a system or told I have to use it, only to find out it offered nothing for my subject area.)
- How many districts invest heavily in materials for science classes? What about for music class? Are instruments provided or only for the "elite" who can afford to get them? (True story: I applied for a job and was told that a prerequisite for registering for an instrumental music class was that the student could afford to rent or purchase an instrument because the school couldn't financially support that for students. I declined the job offer.)
- Have you ever seen a message, especially during the pandemic, that sounded like, "We are providing xxx support/lesson plans/curriculum resources for all teachers!" only to find out that "all" meant LA/math/science/SS only. (Yes. All the time.)
As a person who advocates for these often-forgotten areas at the district level, it's exhausting. I don't know how anyone does it for long without getting burned out. How can we change the status quo?
- What if we offered more flexible, customized professional development? Not only would it help specials and electives teachers, but I think all teachers could benefit from this! Some need exactly the training we have been offering. But some need something totally different.
- What if we gave teachers the tools they needed to do their job and let them focus on the instruction? I know, this is a pie in the sky ideal because budgets are involved, and money is tight. But I wish that my teachers could focus on how to best instruct the kids in their class rather than spending hours looking for or putting together their own materials because my district can't afford (or is not prioritizing) money to purchase materials for them. Somehow, it just never seems to be a priority for these subject areas.
- What if, when we say all, we truly meant all? This is just my plea to be careful in your communications. I don't believe we always need the same things, and sometimes it makes sense not to do the same thing for everyone - but please don't say all unless you truly mean all.
I feel like I spend every day as an advocate, and it's exhausting. As I recently told my coworkers, I can't do it alone. I need others to jump on board. I feel an incredible weight of responsibility as the one person on the instructional team with this type of background, and I feel like I carry so many voices of amazing teachers who just want to feel supported. I hope we can all come together to make it happen.
*I realize that this is just one of many issues - we could talk about so many other categories of people who experience similar disenfranchisement for other reasons, some even more serious. I by no means want to ignore that, but this is what is on my mind right here, right now, so it's what I'm writing about!