Teachers often feel helpless when trying to reform their own schools, but they may not be as powerless as they think. That’s the message that Rick Hess, the Director of Education Policy Studies at the American Enterprise Institute, tries to empower teachers with in his book, The Cage-Busting Teacher.
Cage-busting isn’t when teachers meet with policymakers or sit on a new committee, Hess said at an book event on Wednesday. “It’s cage-busting when teachers identify the things that stop them from doing their best work, come up with better solutions that they can share with colleagues, or administrators or policymakers, and find constructive ways to push those solutions so that they have more time, passion and energy to do the stuff that they’re in the classroom to do.”
A common theme at the event was turning complaints into solutions. “Teachers ought to focus on identifying problems,” Hess, a former high school social studies teacher, said. “They ought to focus not just on complaining about them, but on offering solutions, alternatives, ways to do it better.”
The event highlighted teachers who took education reform into their own hands and helped better their schools.
That reform often requires principals who are open to changing the system and new ideas. Within that parameter, a lot can be accomplished if teachers just ask.
Jason Karmas taught math for eight years at John Philip Sousa Middle School in Washington, D.C. He was struggling to teach his students three years of math in one year, but told his principal that, with double the class time, it might be possible. His principal was open to the idea and told Karmas they could move forward if he found a way to make it work with the schedule.