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TEACHING RESPECT: Removing Creativity Hinders Respect for Teachers

Lack of respect is something that I’ve discussed with many of my fellow educators, as it has seemingly run rampant in recent years.  The product of our discussions usually center around our love for teaching, but also, we discuss how difficult it has become to maintain in an environment where we do not feel respected or valued.
Low polls for teacher respect
I was in high school when I first realized that I wanted to become a teacher. My first memories of the profession were teaching Sunday School classes for what began as a favor for my grandmother. After the first few sessions, I fell in love. These moments in my 4th grade Sunday school classroom solidified my passion for teaching.
Many teachers might have similar or perhaps very different “a-ha” moments that describe when they knew they wanted to be a teacher. What many of us soon learn is that while we love teaching, there are difficult realities of being a teacher in America today.
When I was in school, I didn’t always like my teachers, but I most definitely respected them, as did my parents. The same cannot be said today regarding teacher respect. For instance, in a 2014 Atlantic article, Poll: Teachers Don’t Get No Respect, respect for teachers was polled.  In the 1980’s and 90’s or whenever “we” were in school, as the article reports, about 91% of individuals polled, stated that parents respected teachers; however, only 49% stated that parents respect teachers today. Parents are not the only group that has seen a decline in teacher respect; school administrators contribute to this trend as well. The poll reports that during the 80’s and 90’s, 88% of people polled believed that administrators respected teachers, yet today only 58% believe that administrators respect teachers. These numbers are certainly troubling, but to any teacher working in the field, they should come as no surprise.
Why the decline in teacher respect?
Many people in the U.S. seem to agree that the status of American schools is in trouble. This discussion on “what to do” about American education appears to be a concern on both sides of the political spectrum; moreover, what both sides have in common is the placement of blame on America’s teachers for the state of our education. This blame may not be overtly stated, but it can be seen in educational policy.
Let’s take a look a No Child Left Behind (NCLB) of 2001, for instance.  The very basic premise of NCLB is that all students should be receiving a quality education that prepares them for both college and the workforce after high school. On the surface, this is a wonderful initiative with which, many would likely agree; however, one of the primary aspects of NCLB dealt with Teacher Accountability. Teacher accountability as outlined in NCLB states that certain provisions be in place to ensure that teachers are highly qualified, like for instance the inclusion of professional development programs and teacher evaluations based on student performance on standardized testing. These provisions all sound reasonable and of course we want our teachers to be accountable; however, these policies and the ways in which they are implemented make the assumption that poor student performance is directly tied to the teacher when there is little evidence to support that idea.
The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) of 2015 presents similar issues regarding teacher accountability. In addition, initiatives like the Common Core Curriculum have also hindered teacher creativity and thus have hindered both respect and trust for teachers. In 2014, David Greene wrote an article titled “The Long Death of Creative Teaching” for U.S. where he explained why he believed that the Common Core is stifling for both teachers and students. In the article, he states that while innovation and creativity happen from the “bottom up”, the Common Core attempts to implore innovation from the “top-down” and thus is largely unsuccessful.
When I was in graduate school for education, we studied policy and regulation, but most of what we did was create lesson and unit plans that engaged students. Our lessons also worked to differentiate our instruction to reach all students.
I remember keeping a notebook on my nightstand because sometimes, in the middle of the night, I would have a great idea to use in the classroom and I didn’t want to forget it. I remember being excited looking at the syllabus and seeing what fun and creative things I do that year to motivate and engage students.
The Common Core and other scripted curricula take creativity out the teaching profession. It sends the message that “schools don’t trust teachers to create content”.  With this being the message, it is no wonder that there is a lack of respect and trust for teachers across the country.
While guidelines, regulations and other initiatives are essential for providing a quality education to America’s youth, taking the reigns away from teachers has not proven to be very successful. We must empower our teachers and provide them with the tools that they need to ensure that students are receiving a quality education. Most teachers are capable and passionate individuals, and the lack of respect seen currently hinders the progress of the state of education in our country.

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