My life is devoted to education. My path in this field was defined by my rejection of the way I was schooled but with a constant fix on my sense that the people who schooled me were honest, hard-working people doing the best they knew how. Even though I chose a different way of teaching, I am determined to honor those who taught me and insist that our system discover how to honor them, too. We do not honor our teachers by forcing them to kowtow to standardized testing. We do not honor our teachers by packing ever more students into their classrooms. We do not honor our teachers by forcing them to be dictators in a democratic society. And, we do not honor our teachers by making them behavioral managers instead of social leaders.
The first thing we can do to honor teachers is acknowledge the learner as the core around which education is organized, not the teacher. True teachers understand perfectly well that they owe their job to the fact that a learner wants their help in achieving a personal goal. And true teachers are not exclusively professional, they are parents, neighbors, friends and every caring human being who helps someone else learn. An education system organized around learning has to listen to its learners and discover their goals. From within the context of those personal goals, our society is perfectly positioned as a collaborator that can respectfully temper personal ambition in the fires of collective reality and still support every individual to thrive with whatever unique talents and challenges those individuals offer.
The second thing we can do to honor teachers is to put their relationship to students first. In schools there is nothing more important than protecting the trust a student puts in his or her teacher.
Finally, we can most immediately honor teachers by opening a democratic dialogue with schools to re-establish proper relationships throughout the school community. Empowering citizens to participate in celebrating the highest democratic ideals that this country was founded on, and for which so many people are fighting and giving their lives and loves, this is how I want to honor my teachers.
Excerpt from Attitude First