When Teachers Aren’t Invited

During my prep period today, I ran across a discussion between a few people on Twitter. It revolved around a Harvard Gazette article where five experts engaged in a discussion regarding how to  “jump-start effective learning.”

I read the experts and found myself nodding with a few of their ideas. However, I was bothered that the discussion regarding the future of education failed to include a single K-12 public school teacher. Somehow we are not a part of the conversation. 


Imagine a conversation about the future of health care that never included a single doctor. Think about a dialogue on the future of art without a single artist. Maybe a discussion on the future of business with only economics professors and not a single person from a corporation. I wouldn’t expect to see a visionary conversation about the future of architecture without including any real architects.

Jason Glass pointed out that the panel wasn’t meant as a slight to teachers. It was simply a group of experts affiliated with Harvard. I don’t believe it was an intentional slight. It rarely is. Instead, it’s an oversight, a quiet silence of the teacher’s perspective. The experts are out there, above us, dreaming up reform. We are simply the practitioners.

I get it. Harvard wasn’t trying to slight teachers. They simply ignored us. However, shouldn’t this raise an alarm about those who are rethinking schools? If Harvard’s education program doesn’t include real K12 teachers, what does that say about the various reform movements associated with the university? If we are invited to listen but not to speak, are we really invited to be anything more than servants to an elite group of thinkers who see themselves as above the messy reality of a classroom context?

It might seem as if I’m making a big deal out of one rountable discussion that didn’t include teachers. However, I find this to be a common occurence whenever the media, the universities or the political institutions talk about education reform. 

And the greater problem is this: those who create policies are much more likely to listen to a Harvard panel packed with experts than they are to listen to the teachers who often have great ideas on re-imagining schools. When our perspectives aren’t included in the various panel discussions, policy makers miss out on a necessary reform perspective: the classroom context. 


John Spencer

John Spencer

Phoenix, Arizona

In my sophomore year of college, I began tutoring a fifth-grader in a Title One, inner city Phoenix school. What began as a weekly endeavor of teaching fractions and editing essays grew into an awareness of the power of education to transform lives. My involvement in a non-profit propelled a passion for learning as an act of empowerment.

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