Teacher Agency: Coming from a Strong Foundation
My past few blog posts have been dedicated to teacher agency:
- Teacher Agency: Educators Moving from a Fixed to a Growth Mindset
- Teacher Agency: Self-Directed Professional Development
This post focuses on the foundation needed to have authentic, strong, and purpose-driven teacher agency. To have a voice, to gain agency, it is important to have a strong philosophical foundation and be able to clearly articulate one’s ideals, values, mission, and vision as an educator.
As part of teaching pre-service teachers, I ask them to spend a lot of time exploring why they are becoming teachers, their values related to being one, philosophical orientations, and desired instructional practices. This builds a good foundation for their lives as teachers but what I find interesting is that educators are rarely asked to re-visit these core and foundational areas once they become teachers, once they have the experience of being a teacher. I fear that many, once they get caught up with the mandates, accountability systems, requirements of being a teacher, they lose sight the why they became teachers.
The recommendation, then, is for educators to periodically revisit why they became teachers along with the exploring and possibly revising their value system and related teaching philosophies. This could be done as an individual endeavor but it is more powerful done within a professional learning community. Some exercises to assist with this process follow.
Characteristics of Effective Teachers and Letter to an Ineffective Teacher
Brainstorm characteristics of effective teachers. The recommended number is about 10 to 15. As a follow up, a letter could be written to an ineffective teacher, explaining what made him/her ineffective and what could make make him or her more effective. Example:
Developing a Teaching Mission Statement
Grant Wiggins believes educators should be able to address and answer the question, Why do you teach?, in the form of a teaching mission statement.
Having taught, what should they have learned? What do you aim to accomplish as a teacher? What is your goal for the year, for all the years? What kind of a difference in their thinking and acting are you committed to? Why You Teach: Developing A Teacher Mission Statement
Some resources for assisting with this process:
- How Do I Write a Teacher Mission Statement?
- Creating a Personal Mission Statement for Teaching History
Specifying Beliefs as an Educator
This is an expansion of the developing a mission statement. It is a list of guiding beliefs or principles for teaching. Examples:
Promises to Our Students
Create a list of promises to your students. Post them in your classroom so both you and they can view them.
Create a Purpose Statement of Education from a Futuristic Perspective
Pretend it is the year 2100. So almost a hundred years have passed from the current day. What has been the purpose of education in the 21st century based on your beliefs on what is the best education for our students?
- create an image
- write a newspaper or magazine article
- create a fable
- create presentation
- write a narrative
As this is part of my mission to encourage educators to demand their own agency, it is important for educators to take these exercises to the next level. They need to live out and put into practice their beliefs and values. They need to demand of themselves, their students, their administrators, and their communities that they are given the opportunity to do what they know in their hearts and minds what is in the best interests of the students.