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  • Writer's picturePaula Reed

Letting Quality Teachers Teach

Letting Quality Teachers Teach

As a high school English teacher, one of the most important things I taught was writing—complex writing that involved abstract thinking plus sophisticated development of grammatical skills. What we teachers really wanted to do during staff development time was work on student essays together, helping each other develop our craft and share best practices.

Unfortunately, administrators are required to document exact, simple, concrete skills that can be easily quantified to demonstrate that students have learned it. That’s not how essay writing works. It just isn’t. This forces teachers to dumb-down instruction significantly.

My colleagues and I spent a ton of time every week―in staff development, in class, and at home—giving and grading work that did not actually enhance student learning; it simply ticked a box on our evaluations. This is a waste of valuable instruction time. Also, it is brutal to spend 60 hours a week on the real work of teaching, and then top it off with busywork. This is the situation for teachers all over the country, including Jeffco. No wonder it is hard to retain the most conscientious ones—they’re burning out trying to teach well and jump through the needless hoops.

Few people outside of education understand how school board decisions (like requiring that everything be easily tested and quantified) affect actual instruction and the students receiving that instruction. The next time a candidate tells you they’re going to improve achievement, ask them how.

I’ll answer that for you on my behalf: I will let quality teachers teach. I will ask the tough questions about whether or not a new policy will improve instruction or distract from it. I will push back against policies that do nothing but burn out our best and brightest. Competitive salaries will attract the best teachers, and letting them do their jobs will help retain them. Students will reap the benefits.

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