The Capable Teachers are Already Here
The challenge confronting public education is not recruiting more good people to an ineffective system, but rather creating powerful systems that allow ordinary people to achieve success.
(DuFour and Marzano, 2008, p. 19)
One advantage of this approach is that it doesn't require hiring a phalanx of high-performing new teachers. In their book Leaders of Learning, Dufour and Marzano (2008) examined school reform efforts over the past thirty years. Among the items that keep reappearing is "Recruit capable people." As the authors pointed out, though, it is not that simple.
United States public school teachers are an educated, caring group of people who are highly motivated to help kids succeed—messages from politicians that blame them for our school systems' problems miss the mark. We already have the workforce we need to achieve a great education system.
Recruiting good people into a broken system will fix nothing: "The effort to bring qualified people into the field must be accompanied by a concerted effort to make the profession more satisfying and fulling" (DuFour & Marzano, 2018, p. 19). The profession can be more fulfilling if the system can harness the collaboration, problem-solving, creativity and innovation that people desire. If we continue to hand things down to people, no one will want to work in a school because the professional, innovative culture they desire to participate in is becoming non-existent in schools. If we don't change, it might be too late. The workforce demands are already weighing down districts across the country. We have great teachers in every school. It is time we harness their innate, learned and potential abilities.
Teachers Are Already Collaborating—Sometimes
It's not that teachers don't work collectively already. It's just that that work is rarely part of any official policy or system. But it is striking that the most effective means we have available to improve schools are used only as informal processes. Collaboration and being a part of a team—and functioning within that team to grow and help others grow—is sadly reduced to informal adherence to effective practices.
We cannot tell teachers to work as a team and collaborate when we evaluate then mainly on what happens when they are in front of the kids, in isolation. We cannot tell them to be collectively responsible for student learning and then, the only time they receive feedback, have it come from one person who just watched them teach with no other teachers in the room. As long as we try to function in this mode, the only successful schools will be positive deviants.