After teaching at an oppressive, regimented, “turn around” school district, I can now say I know what it means to be academically free. Those who’ve taught in such spaces understand what I mean when I use those words above. It’s a space where all my steps are watched, all my mistakes are counted, all my successes count for someone else, numbers are everything, and voices are quieted. It’s stifling. Both for students and teachers and worst of all, for learning and production.
On the contrary, my current administration has created a different atmosphere for teaching. It’s refreshing to be able to design curriculum that I know is developmentally appropriate, will be engaging, and most importantly: rigorous. I’ve been in education and working with young people long enough to know what things interest them and how to craft my lessons so that I challenge them. There are many teachers that need support and may not be knowledgable enough to stand on their own two feet yet. However, coaching them is the answer, not micromanaging or imposing.
As good as I have it, I don’t share any of this to boast. I’m simply sharing that it’s possible. It’s possible to be respected for what you do. It’s possible to be trusted to do your job. It’s effective to treat teachers as knowledgable and then support them when they need it. I’ve realized that my experience was negative and damaging. My work with the students is something I’ll never regret or forget. They’ll always have a place in my heart. The oppressive structure? Nah.