Aretha Franklin’s signature lyrics quickly came to mind recently. It happened for an unlikely reason. But before I reveal the source of my trip down memory lane, let me tell you that it was a surprising one.
The surprise was how readily I recalled all the words, movements and facial expressions from the diva’s live performance years ago, and how deeply the catalyst for this recollection moved me to sing the words out loud—much to the surprise (and chagrin) of my family.
R E S P E C T is not only the title of a well-loved Aretha song, but is also the name of what I hope will become a widely read and received government project. I told you it was unlikely.
The RESPECT Project, from the United States Department of Education, takes on the challenge to “prepare our young people to be engaged citizens, to compete in the global job market, and to keep up…challenges facing our country.” This statement comes as no surprise as the importance of educating our children is a tradition we’ve long held in this country.
What is surprising is what the project sees as the solution to the educational challenges that rock our country. “The United States must ensure that teaching is a highly respected and supported profession.” You’ve just got to read this document.
In expanding the vision, the project goes on to say that the United States must ensure “that accomplished, effective teachers guide students’ learning in every classroom, and that effective principals lead every school”. This is more good news. Teachers and principals working and learning together to create a rich educational experience for their students- something most educators never experience. The document further defines their vision of an accomplished, effective teacher, and principal.
As good as this validation is, the project unfurled another chorus of RESPECT (Recognizing Educational Success, Professional Excellence, and Collaborative Teaching). It did this by stating that in order to support this vision, the U.S. Department of Education is working with educators, teachers’ associations, unions, as well as state and national education associations for the sole purpose of sparking a national conversation about transforming teaching for the 21st century.
I greatly appreciate that the first step to transforming the profession is not initially, legislation, but rather conversation. National conversation. What comes to mind is a bevy of town halls, board meetings, as well as educational and labor conferences all speculating and postulating on the possibilities of a renovated profession.
To this end, The RESPECT Project, suggests meaningful “career lattices that could support excellent teaching and leadership.” But it acknowledges that there is more than one path to making the vision a reality and wisely leaves it up to local schools and districts to determine the right mix of teacher roles and responsibilities that will meet the needs of their students.
The invitation to dialogue about transforming teaching is not only appealing, but highly effective. The high regard teaching deserves, much like professions such as engineering, law, and medicine, cannot be legislated only, but must first be unveiled. The truth of what we do as teachers with skill, honed talent, strategic care, and joy is hidden from the populace at large. Our students and their families know, but our expertise emerges little farther than that.
My hope is that in our conversations with each other--be they at town halls, board meetings, or national conferences—we trust and unleash our teachers to be the collaborative, critical thinking, and creative problem solvers our nation not only needs, but so richly deserves. So, check out the document; it’s open to public comment until June 22. As stake-holders, let policy makers know in what ways we can tangibly make this vision a reality.
That will give a whole new meaning to “T C B”.