Teachers aren't asked nearly often enough what they think about the issues that are impacting our students, schools and profession. As teachers ourselves in Chicago and New York City, we should know.
That’s one of the reasons why we jumped at the chance to once serve as a member of the Teacher Advisory Group for "Voices from the Classroom," Educators for Excellence's nationally representative survey of what teachers think about the most urgent issues in education.
Released just last month, the survey was designed by teachers like us to capture crucial insight on the views of educators across the country on a wide variety of issues impacting students and the teaching profession. And just like our survey two years before, we were thrilled to help reverse this trend by asking our colleagues what they think about the state of education. Because if we’re surveying teachers, it only makes sense to have teachers involved in the design of the survey.
We, along with eight other teachers, met throughout the fall to review results from the 2018 survey, provide input into what questions should be included this time around and discuss topics that are top of mind for teachers and students. We then met in Chicago to examine the 2020 survey results and strategize how to roll out the data in a way that injects teachers’ voices and views into key conversations and discussions.
While it was the first time many of us had met in person, the advisory group instantaneously created a community among each other. And while reviewing the survey results, educators promptly related to the data and read beyond the lengthy spreadsheets of numbers and percentages, and knew they weren’t alone. When you look through the results and see that teachers nationwide are thinking the same thing you are, you feel emboldened and validated.
By capturing various teacher voices from all U.S. regions with a representative sample, we don’t just see a small snapshot of one community, but a diversity of backgrounds and experiences from all over. And this survey data can be a catalyst for change that will equip teachers with a tool to elevate their voices beyond the classroom. All we ever do is tell stories about our classroom experiences without being able to ever say, “and here’s the data that backs up why I feel this way. And it’s not just me -- look at all these teachers who feel this way." The survey data helps strengthen our message and turn up the volume on our personal microphones.
With the 2020 presidential elections and campaigning season in full swing, the time is ripe for change and educators must amplify their voices. We can use the data to hold candidates accountable and to ensure that they propose and work to enact teachers’ solutions to the biggest problems in education. Encouraging local politicians and policymakers to talk with educators will attach human stories to this data, spurring decision-makers to action and moving the work forward.
We want to get policymakers and politicians not to just look at this data, but bring us to the table to hear about our experiences that support the data. Our stories are similar—it doesn’t matter if it’s a kindergarten teacher or 12th grade teacher. We must use this data and our own personal stories to improve the teaching profession and education system for all.
Whether it’s in Chicago, New York, or another locale across the nation, we, along with a slew of our colleagues, will be ready to share our experiences.
Photo courtesy of the author.
Daniel Gannon is a social studies teacher at Bronx Leadership Academy II High School, Bronx, New York, and a member of Educators for Excellence - New York.