Teachers Need a Seat at the Table

What’s the surest way of improving student performance in Maine’s troubled schools? Break down the bureaucratic chains that control what goes on and invite the teachers to the decision-making table.

Amongst my teaching acquaintances I do not know many who report having been offered a legitimate seat at the table where the important programming decisions were being made. These decisions include scheduling, goals and structures for meetings, hiring, evaluation procedures, and curriculum.

Yet schools that include teachers as equal players are the ones that soar above the others in terms of student achievement. Those are the schools where teachers love to work, where they are energized, hopeful that they can meet the needs of their students, not just devoted to them but confident that what they do will make a difference.

Many schools do pay lip-service to this idea. An administrator hand-picks a teacher or two here or there to work on a committee charged with some task. As often as not the teacher reports back to his or her peers that the decisions seemed to have been made before the first meeting had even begun.

Schools that do business in this way waste the energy of those who are potentially their hardest workers. Nothing is more effective at harnessing the power of teachers to work for the good of a school than including them in meaningful ways in decision-making about their school’s programming. If the teachers are engaged the students will be too.



Kathreen Harrison

About Kathreen Harrison

Kathreen Harrison is a public school teacher in Maine. She has a master’s degree from Bank Street College of Education and a bachelor’s degree from Harvard College. She has worked in a variety of schools in New York and Maine in a number of capacities – French teacher, gifted and talented teacher, elementary school teacher, and curriculum coordinator for island schools. She has lived in Maine for 20 years and has a particular interest in school reform.