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MEREDITH: Renewed respect for teachers tops this wish list

December 12, 2015

Meredith
Dear Santa,

All I want for Christmas is respect for all those who serve in Indiana’s public schools.

Can you imagine it, Santa—what smart, sound education policy could look like if our legislators and governor listened to teachers and valued their insights as professionals? The opportunities would be endless for those most dedicated to our students.

Imagine classrooms where teachers teach, not to a test, but to inspire our kids; where students aspire to learn, not pass a test; and where teachers and education-support professionals are acknowledged as professionals with valuable insights. Uplifting and supporting our teachers and education-support professionals to meet the needs of our students should be the state’s priority as we enter the new legislative session.

Imagine if we could recruit and retain the best and brightest educators to serve Hoosier kids. Acknowledging the significant role educators play in preparing our students to enter the workforce in the 21st century economy. An emphasis and a return of funding for professional development would ensure our teachers are prepared to deliver the latest education methods that reflect a changing economy and the needs of employers.

Imagine new teachers entering the profession with assurances of loan forgiveness in exchange for service and the opportunity to grow professionally through master’s degree work or National Board Certification. Developing and funding strong mentorship programs, where our newest teachers would be paired with our most experienced professionals. A strong mentor-mentee relationship would instill collaborative workplaces where the best techniques are shared between generations. Our teachers would be better trained and professionally supported and, in turn, students would see how much they are valued.

Imagine recognizing that teachers are doing a great job and acknowledging that student test scores are only a snapshot of one moment rather than an evaluation tool that measures schools, teacher and student success for the year. Testing would be used as a true assessment tool. Testing would inform instruction and drive program work to support learners. Classroom learning would be a true place of learning, not simply teaching to the test.

Imagine recognizing the value of the collective voice of professionals most qualified to discuss student learning conditions. Educators would be included in decision making in classroom policies and practices that are developmentally appropriate for students. This would clearly signal a high level of respect for the professional role they play in educating students.

Imagine acknowledging the value of collective bargaining rights for those who serve in our schools as education-support professionals. Our nurses, bus drivers and counselors would have a voice in how best to deliver their services to improve the school day and foster continued student learning. These professionals could bring their expertise to the discussions that affect their jobs and our kids.

Imagine the student achievement and growth if they were properly nourished and healthy. There would be programs and supports in place to address every child’s needs. Imagine the level of focus and growth that could occur if students felt secure that their basic needs, at least while in school, would be met.

When Santa arrives with a clatter of hooves, I’ll be dreaming of what our kids and schools can achieve when Indiana’s elected leaders take action to ensure the voices of teachers and education-support professionals are included and valued in education-policy development.

All I want for Christmas is respect for educators. For the sake of our kids, our schools, and our future.•

__________

Meredith is president of the Indiana State Teachers Association and has taught for more than 20 years in Indiana schools. Send comments on this column to ibjedit@ibj.com.

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