The more time I spend in the classroom, the more I am convinced that teaching is the single most challenging intellectual and emotional pursuit in existence. While I would hold firmly that good teaching is a craft that can be learned by anyone, great teaching, which is unfortunately necessary if all of my students in the Bronx are to be successful, is the work of artistic genius. It should then be left to the artist and the craftsmen to determine the future of their medium; no reasonable person would argue otherwise if they agree to my teacher as craftsman/artist premise.
The problem with the current dialogue around education is that it assumes an industrial aspect to teaching: students are seen as raw material, onto which some act is preformed or some knowledge is inserted. Teachers are merely viewed as the instrument through which this insertion occurs. The bourgeois elites who currently dominate the national education discourse, unfortunately, nearly all come from the relatively small percentage who were successful educated by this long established factory model. Their success blinds them to the solutions that would work for more.
Teacher leadership is important because we are the only ones who can improve education. We are the ones who can approach the problems of pedagogy not through our own past experience, but through the eyes of the children we serve every day. There are certainly decisions that should not be left exclusively to teachers, such as operations or other managerial tasks. However, the definition and measurement of success in the classroom needs to be left to the artists and craftsmen who are working tirelessly to improve their work, and their students’ lives.