Building a Sustainable Structure to Elevate Teacher Voice

On Friday December first, we attended a convening of educators from across the state organized by four teacher leaders with the support of Education First Consulting. The day featured videos of the four teacher leaders, a keynote by National Teacher of the Year Sydney Chaffee, a panel from the Revere Educators Leadership Board, and some planning activities to help attendees think about how to implement or improve teacher leadership opportunities in their schools and districts. 

Kat and I worked with Kevin Cormier to lead a session about teacher voice and how - and why - teachers should be part of decision-making outside of their classrooms. We first met Kevin, who teaches 7th and 8th grade math at North Middlesex Regional School District, when he joined the Teacher Advisory Cabinet at the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. In Kevin's words:  “For the first nine years of my teaching career, my focus was within the four walls of my classroom. In my tenth year I got involved in MA DESE’s Teacher Advisory Cabinet (TAC). I had no idea that such groups even existed, but once I was part of one, I was hooked. It rejuvenated me when I didn’t even know I needed it. Now I see a whole new landscape of opportunities for teachers beyond the classroom that can give us new skills, knowledge, connections and inspiration that ultimately help us be even better in the classroom.” 

Kevin's description of being exposed to a whole new world of opportunities that he previously didn't know existed is central to the reason we believe the Teacher Collaborative is so needed. Educators need a space - virtual and in-person - to share and learn about opportunities that are fun, interesting, and fulfilling - both personally and professionally. Kevin is a member of our Educator Council; he is one of over 50 educators who are informing our vision, shaping our work, and making sure we stay true to what teachers really want and need.

At the event, Kat and I were proud to release a new guide for district and school leaders called Building a Sustainable Structure to Elevate Teacher Voice. This guide represents our best advice to anyone thinking about how they might include educators' voices in decision-making whether through establishing an advisory, running focus groups, or conducting a survey. 

We decided to use our presentation time at the event to focus less on the nuts and bolts (which can be found in the guide) and more on what we see as an essential first step: starting with the why. To do that, we walked people through a three-part activity:

  1. What is a "hot topic" you are currently thinking about? In order for teachers' voices to be incorporated authentically, you need to start with initiatives you are already working on or thinking about.
  2. What does the research say? Part of making the case for why teachers should be included in decision-making or other leadership opportunities is being able to point to research and examples. We designed an activity that allowed participants to read through some snippets of research and choose which ones resonated most for them.
  3. What's your teacher leadership story? The other part of making the case has to do with the heart, as opposed to the mind. What short, memorable anecdote could you share that demonstrates why teacher leadership matters to teachers? To students? To school leaders? To the profession?

We would love to hear from anyone who is using our guide. Please email us with follow-up questions or suggestions!