Teacher autonomy isn’t something that I see many people advocating for in conversations on equity in education. However, it’s definitely a topic that warrants more in depth conversation if we plan on reducing the numbers of teachers not just leaving classrooms but leaving the profession each year.
The teacher crisis was happening before COVID-19!
It’s important to state and restate that public schools were having an issue with retaining teachers before COVID-19 which only elevated the current crisis in the shortage of teachers. My experience as an administrator showed me the importance of having teachers on board with the vision and mission and giving them autonomy and flexibility to build innovation in our classrooms and culture.
Administration also showed me how punitive policies don’t just negatively impact students, they also impact teachers. Teachers drive instruction.
The magic that happens in classrooms when each child is able to be engaged and excel during the lesson is what every teacher should strive to provide in every lesson, in every subject, for every child.
The policies that are put in place don’t allow for teachers to have autonomy and flexibility.
What are the barriers?
Teachers are overworked with too many administrative duties. There is also a lack of support for co-teaching models and training, and compensation that matches the responsibilities and role of teachers in student achievement.
What does flexibility for teachers to build innovation in classrooms look like?
Flexibility for teachers to build innovation in classrooms looks like:
- School leaders partnering with teachers when creating student schedules
- Empowering leadership for teachers in classrooms
- Expanding leadership opportunities and training for teachers who want to remain in the classroom
- Improving teaching methods and styles aligned to students’ learning needs
- Value teachers as advocates for educational equity
What do teachers really want?
They want autonomy and flexibility that allow them the time to plan effectively for student achievement and prepare for lessons. They want professionalism in the most essential forms of respect and courtesy. They need time to coach and lead students, teachers, and parents, and resources to reach the needs of each individual student.
Jason has worked in education for over 15 years as a teacher, blogger and community advocate. He speaks and writes primarily about the need to improve education for Black boys, particularly increasing the number of Black male educators in schools. In addition to blogging here at EdLanta, Jason is also a featured writer at Education Post.