I am an English teacher at the Eliot K-8 in the North End and a proud member of the Boston Teacher’s Union (BTU). Our teacher’s contract offers me the security needed to be a good teacher and a good father. I am deeply thankful to the BTU and Boston Public Schools (BPS) for providing this security.
But there are also items in our contract that prevent students from receiving a high-quality education. To me, the most striking example of this is the way that teachers are observed and evaluated. I know that to hone my practice, I need frequent observation and feedback from skilled teachers.
Experienced outside observers can see aspects of my teaching that I can’t see on my own. Without such observation, it’s all too easy for me to unconsciously develop teaching habits that don’t help my students’ learning.
Our teacher’s contract should build in programs that provide this kind of observation. We have an excellent voluntary Peer Assistance program, but BPS currently employs only four Peer Assistants for its 4,700 teachers. For the thousands of permanent teachers who don’t participate in this program, the contract only requires that they be observed once every two years by an administrator who may or may not have teaching experience in the relevant subject and grade level.
BPS and the BTU are currently in negotiations for our next contract. We can create a more effective system for supporting teachers in our professional development goals and evaluating us based on our progress toward these goals. Doing so would be the single most powerful step we could take towards improving Boston’s schools.
Stand for Children is an organization that is listening to teachers for guidance on this issue. With Stand for Children, I recognize an opportunity to be the change I wished to see in BPS. Last month, I helped launch Stand for Children’s Boston Chapter and I invite the public to join us. Stand for Children is a grassroots advocacy group dedicated to achieving long-lasting improvements for children in Massachusetts’ schools. Our local Boston Chapter will offer a platform to share ideas, express opinions and raise one strong voice in support of our children’s futures.
As an educational system, we need to show the public the truth — that all of us want teachers to develop as professionals.
Due to incorrect information provided to the Bay State Banner, Lcpl. Alexander S. Arredondo was a recipient of the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation with Combat V, not the Navy Cross as first reported. The Banner regrets the error.