Recently I posted an "education solution" on an education forum called EDDRA run by Jerry Bracey of NEA fame. I suggested that the best way to improve schools was to look at the success of the US economy and look back at the time when those who made this explosion in creativity possible - those who were in school during the fifties and sixties, when the teacher ruled the classroom, was a respected member of the community, was deferred to by parents, was consulted by vendors, was able to take European vacations in the summer, was dedicated to education and their students, etc.

I suggested a return to Teacher Autonomy.

Well that august body split right down the middle between those who thought the idea was very today, and those that said that teachers today were not made of the stuff for autonomy to work.

What say you, the creative and innovative teachers on this network? Are you up to autonomy, or would you prefer to have overpaid, underworked admins attend conferences in your stead and choose the wrong books for the needs of your students, and all the rest of the mess teachers at the bottom of the feeding chain have had to put up with since before NCLB came to rule the land!

Tags: autonomy, cnferences, development, leadership, professional, responsibility, rules, teachers, vendors

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First of all, if teachers had autonomy, they would not have class sizes larger than they could effectively manage, and they would have the oversight to put into place such options as Elluminate for students who can benefit from it. There are few if any teachesr who would choose to teach more than 20 students in a diverse class, and most, with any experience, would opt for even smaller classes. I can say from personal experience that in classes of 5-8 children, it is very do-able to differentiate instruction to individual needs. With more effort, one can do it with up to 12 children, but by that time you are dropping off some of the kids either whose needs are specialized beyond your resources, or who can work on their own without needing specialization.
Time for more brainstorming before bedtime (sounds like a title form the Magic Tree House series, lol)

When I set my course up, I spent a long time thinking about what I would love to have for my own son. I wanted us all to have the convenience of the internet - click you are there. I wanted the advantages of living, human beings for him to interact with. Elluminate run by a teacher that values both the academic aspects of the class and the social aspects can add so much to a rich learning environment. I would want my son to be able to grow the friendships beyond the classroom time by being able to contact the other students - but publicly online in a moderated environment where all comments were visible to keep it safe. It would be fun if this social tool also gave him a member page that he could personalize to speak visually about who he is. I would want lectures that were engaging with lots of visuals, opportunities to interact with the screen, multimedia, the ability to text a question to the teacher and exchange on-topic chat with the entire class about what was being experienced. After the lecture time, he could take a quiz that let him be sure he caught what he needed, but that it could be taken over and over and only the best score sent to the grade book to encourage its use for practice and study. The quiz would have immediate feedback when possible with a timely hand score by the instructor for a sprinkling of more open types of responses. After the lecture sequence, some interesting hands on and creative exploration would be fun such as labs, mysteries for the kids to try to solve, and the opportunity to see and hear what it is like to work in the subject field as a professional via guest speakers and virtual fieldtrips. Though the class would have kids from all over the US, Canada, and beyond there would be a local core of kids to get together with for hands on time with single day and multi-week projects such as dissection, work with real lab gear, stream studies with an entire season's worth of data collected, etc. In the summer, going to a national camp experience where he could see his more distant classmates and get to do something like Greg Landry is doing with his cadaver camp. I would want a class where he would be inspired to make a song about the topic, send it off to his musical classmates for making a soundtrack and then and other one take the track and expand it with adding video elements and then they all enjoy it being published on the net. As much as all that synchronous stuff sounds like fun, I would also want a class where if we wanted to take a vacation we could, or if he needed to go faster or slower there was an asynchronous option in which all the lectures were recorded and he could access any of the resources, quizzes, and tests that he needed when he was ready for them. Add to this 24/7 access to the grade book, a teacher that is easy to get a hold of because she shares her e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, and Ning links, and a course that never closes, and you have an ideal class.

To me, autonomy is the ability to make all that a reality without all the hastlles of the system's approvals, paperwork, and grant writing. You just do it because it makes sense and it meets the needs of the kids.

Brainstorming for the public school system, yes, but it is also the reality I have the pleasure of living both as an instructor and also as a parent every day. :0)

Your scenario is breathtakingly wonderful!

Have you ever read the Isaac Asimov story, "The Fun They Had"? If not it is at

An important value is that the student be able to integrate learning into his/her "real life", no matter what the learning is or who gets to make the choices.

A few things we can do better online than f2f, is to be able to let students change their minds about what they want to learn. If they thought they wanted to learn about animals, and it gets boring, they can switch to something else. Also, if a subject lights them up, they can go on to a higher and higher level of it. That is some of the flexibility that we need to build into online learning whether it takes place with the child logging in from home or the classroom.
Thanks for opening this discussion. I have been wondering just how to start this type of discussion. The question of teacher autonomy is very topical. There is an extreme lack of respect for public school teachers that is growing due to to media misrepresentations. This is not to say that there aren't bad teachers in the classroom, but most are excellent. The passage of NCLB further contributes to this situation by narrowing even further the teacher's voice. Creative teachers, innovators, are made to conform as administrators demand that we become cookie cutter versions of what they believe a classroom should be in the name of passing a test. My bigger question, one that I struggle with in my own district, is how to get teachers to open their doors and begin demanding more respect, more room to innovate, more voice in the decisions that are being made without regard to the best interests of the child. We shouldn't have to go outside the district or shut our doors to have the freedom to do what we know is best. What can be done to get more teachers to simply speak up?
First step, I think, is to open those doors. Let the admins know that you are a creative teacher and able to think for yourself. Let the open door policy be your way of speaking out.

I generally kept my door open. For one thing, without it we got neither heat nor air conditioning in the room. For another, I wanted the regular ed students to see the special ed students doing email and using the Internet, and doing exciting other things!
My current school is very collaborative in nature and we have a good administrator, but even the principal is ignored or ostracized when she tries to bring the teachers' voices to decision making. My frustration comes with the lack of respect given to elementary teachers' professionalism. To me, it's less about letting the building administrator know one is creative. Instead, it's about giving classroom teachers a meaningful role in decision making. In my district, elementary teachers are held in a death grip by one administrator who ignores teachers' voices when it comes to professional development or curriculum decisions. Although I've tried to provide forums several times to try to come up with solutions, most teachers are either too afraid or apathetic to join. What do you do when even your union tries to discourage you from becoming an advocate? Would a blog or discussion group help?

I know how you feel. All you can do is try to encourage teachers one by one to come out of their shell. Pick on activity for one teacher and sell her on doing an online project. Then another. Maybe and 3rd and 4th, and by then ecourage her to find her own resources online (have her check on my website and email me with whatever she needs that she can't find easily). Then move on to another teacher and get her interested. As they get interested, send them jokes or links or other goodies by email. Be sure that have something to open email every day or two. Remind them to check their email, or ask what they thought of the joke, etc.

In the meantime, make sure that everyone knows you are not afraid of those three-legged admins (that was the term I used for them to other teachers - even if they towed the line, it put a smile on their face to know that at least one wasn't).

You may want to be even so bold as to begin to send email to that bossy dude and his boss --- to let them know you are playing by your own rules ---- should be links of interest to admins. Or groups for admins, hopefully encouraging a kinder, gentler touch!



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