For all of the talk about how teaching is a professional vocation where skills and contributions are valued outside of schools and districts, the movement toward actually valuing the work of teachers has been slow in coming. In many ways, we value what we pay for or at least what has a cost associated with it. When you get a public education for “free,” the value proposition doesn’t become real for many learning consumers.
This may sound overly crass or belittling to the amazing work going on in schools that benefits the society as a whole, and it is. We create a morally ambiguous space by placing a dollar amount on instilling a love of learning in a child. But innovation can come from this grey area. Teachers can find their own ways of valuing their time, ones that do not make the transaction of learning a crass one.
One such teacher playing in this arena is Susan Powers of Brown International Academy. She has recently set up a blog that both reflects upon her practice and values her work by creating a marketplace for her ideas. In her 3rd grade classroom, learning is held in high esteem when students have “the eye-opening realisation that our instructions are missing several key details when our [partner], gets a mouthful of toothpaste as they are directed how to brush their teeth…..and all around, kids are falling over in fits of laughter.” This comes from a section she describes as “my favorite lesson of the week.” It places both instructional practice and student outcomes at the forefront, without compromising a 3rd grader’s need to have a kinesthetic and memorable experience with ill-worded instructional prose.
Susan advocates for using Open Educational Resources in addition to paying fellow teachers for their work. It is a dynamic shift from a closed-door classroom, where work is neither shared nor iterated upon. By putting her resources out in the open and encouraging other teachers to use them and change them, she is asking for the world’s teachers to be her collaborators. She is simultaneously making the case that the work she does has value.
The innovation here isn’t in finding a new way of asking to be paid more as a teacher, but rather in asking to be valued and supported for creating best practice within her classroom. While learning may still exist somewhere in the ambiguous space between Open Source and Proprietary information, by sharing and reflecting upon her craft on a regular basis, Susan Powers is helping to start a new conversation about teachers. And I, for one, believe that is a story of Good.