respect-logo-webBarry Schwartz’s piece in the August 30, 2015 NYT titled “Rethinking Work” touches on many issues that teachers have been talking about for years.

Contrary to the belief that has been governing work since Adam Smith, he says,

“We want work that is challenging and engaging, that enables us to exercise some discretion and control over what we do, and that provides us opportunities to learn and grow. We want to work with colleagues we respect and with supervisors who respect us. Most of all, we want work that is meaningful — that makes a difference to other people and thus ennobles us in at least some small way.”

Substitute the word teachers for we.

He refers to the 1998 book, “The Human Equation,” where “the Stanford organizational behavior professor Jeffrey Pfeffer found that workplaces that offered employees work that was challenging, engaging and meaningful, and over which they had some discretion, were more profitable than workplaces that treated employees as cogs in a production machine.”

imagesIsn’t that what teachers have been saying we need and want to do our jobs?

“You enter an occupation with a variety of aspirations aside from receiving your pay. But then you discover that your work is structured so that most of those aspirations will be unmet…. Maybe you’re a teacher who wants to educate kids — but you discover that only their test scores matter…. Pretty soon, you lose your lofty aspirations. And over time, later generations [of teachers] don’t even develop the lofty aspirations in the first place. And when this goes on long enough, Adam Smith’s prophecy comes true. Smith said, in one passage, that, “routinized work typically made people ‘stupid and ignorant.’”

How can we not only improve learning, but also teacher’s “productivity”? “By giving them more of a say in how they do their jobs. By making sure they are offered opportunities to learn and grow. By encouraging them to suggest improvements to the work process and listening to what they say.”

By simply listening to what we (teachers) have been saying for decades.

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