What teachers really need

A few weeks ago, The Boston Foundation (TBF) released a report entitled, The Real Cost of the Contract.”  The report gained a lot of press; the Boston Globe published a front-page article highlighting the report’s findings, and Richard Stutman, the BTU President, wrote a response in the Boston Teacher’s Union Bulletin.

I do not blame any group for writing about their findings and conclusions.  However, I am afraid that what reports and responses like these tend to do is obscure the real issues.  Instead of raising higher-level questions, they create a polarizing dynamic that forces us to “choose sides.”  Do teachers make too much money, or don’t they?  Should teachers be paid based on their students’ test-score performances, or shouldn’t they?  Questions like these put us into opposing camps.

We need to have a different conversation – a conversation about what it means to professionalize teaching.  Teachers need sacrosanct “adult time” (as I argue in my response to The Globe’s article, posted below).  Currently, most teachers don’t have this time, don’t get paid for it, and don’t have control of it.  “Adult time” is simply not part of the way most of us think about teaching and schools.  This, I believe, is worthy of our debate.

My response to Boston Globe article:

THE MOST important issue in teacher negotiations is teacher professional time — what is called adult time (“Teacher salary system decried,’’ Page A1, Jan. 18).

Teachers cannot improve the quality of education if they don’t have sacrosanct time to talk about instruction, assessment, and their students.

Look at any successful school and then count the number of hours per week that teachers meet together.  See whether they have a clear purpose to raise student achievement, hold one another accountable, and nurture a continual feedback loop.

Schools will not improve if we continue to view teaching as an isolated task where one teacher alone could possibly be responsible for student achievement.

Linda Nathan
Co-headmaster
Boston Arts Academy

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