Teachers are the deciders in their classrooms. Given that they spend most of their time alone with their children they do what they decide––even though they may believe the opposite. Despite claims to the contrary from both administrators and teachers, teachers have more autonomy than they recognize. Once teachers understand this, they are free to move in new directions if they choose. As I write in Teaching from the Middle of the Room:


Many teachers tell me they are waiting for leadership to undo what is no longer working. They also say they want to be invited to the table and not be told what to do. In schools that support professional learning communities, they join administrators to reform teaching, sometimes taking the lead. But most still remain in isolated classrooms and need help but are afraid to ask for fear of being judged. Staying in their rooms, not causing a stir keeps them safe—and preserves their contracts.

Ironically, however, as teachers we are the deciders. We can change if we wish. We can stop doing what no longer works, start using better practices, and nurture what we already do well. We do not have to wait for leadership to guide us. We do not have to act out of fear. Except for those of us who are required to execute scripted lessons, we decide how we teach.

We need to find the courage to take creative steps to meet the needs of our students. We need to commit to make learning happen every day through effective lessons designed to deliver honest content, enduring understandings, relevant skills, and lifelong learning. We will then make the difference between an education geared towards the past and one headed for the future.

If we move beyond the embedded academic concentration in schools, we will enrich our teaching. Academic abilities—verbal and mathematical reasoning—are only two forms of intelligence that have value, but not to the exclusion of others. We must include all forms of intelligence at an equal level, especially creative and emotional intelligence, if we are to serve our students well. When we cut the arts to make more room to teach academics—often with “drill and kill” sessions to prepare for tests—we deprive children of the right and opportunity to discover and develop their gifts


For more of such ideas from Teaching from the Middle of the Room: Inviting Students to Learn (Stetson Press, 2010), you can purchase it from Amazon.com.