Teachers thrive in cultures of professional respect and learning

In all of this talk about accountability in schools, policymakers sometimes lose sight of the real accountability that takes place at the teaching and learning level. That accountability is hard to measure when we talk about policy, but when we talk about learning, everyone seems to know the deal. This week, a teacher wrote in Ed Week that she needs a culture of professional respect and learning in order to do her job—not money, promotion, and or other incentives—and especially not punitive measures based on questionable testing data.

While many of my students may come from poverty or difficult home situations, the support I receive bolsters my determination to give each student my very best and to confront academic and discipline issues from a proactive standpoint. I don’t earn more money than teachers in other districts, and I’d be hard pressed to leave my school simply because I was offered more money or perks.

This sounds like a strong teacher who knows what she needs in order to be accountable: “Deidra Gammill, Ph.D (@DeidraGammill) is a National Board-certified high school teacher in Petal, MS. and writes the blog Designing Teachers” (Ed Week). So she brings up a really good point about working with student learning in a proactive way:

What keeps me, and many of my highly effective colleagues, committed to our students is not our high-performing status. Our scores are the result of that ounce of prevention; they are not the pound of cure. And this shift in focus makes all the difference. Our district does not preach a doctrine of the almighty test, nor does it take its identity from our scores. My administrators focus on being proactive, examining the root causes of discipline issues or academic difficulties, and providing what students and teachers need most—respect and support.

Schools that want to recruit and retain highly qualified teachers must shift the focus away from the tangible only; money helps, but it does not cure. Teachers thrive in cultures of professional respect and learning. That’s something that any district can strive to provide, regardless of resources or size. I choose the culture of my classroom—school administrators have the power to choose the culture of their schools (Ed Week)

Money does help, but regardless of money and status, we should find the best models for districts, schools and principals and share those supportive culture characteristics with all schools. It really is the way you do things and the culture you create that makes a difference in learning. Cultures of respect and learning should be the norm, not the exception.

Dr. Robert A. Southworth, Jr.

Dr. Robert A. Southworth, Jr.

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