The summit was the culmination of collaboration by AFT, the National Education Association (NEA), the Council of Chief State School Officers, and the U.S. Department of Education (DOE). Participants included DOE Secretary John King, who addressed the role of teacher leadership in elevating the profession and contributing to the development of education policy.
AFT national president Randi Weingarten was among the many attendees who discussed the importance of raising and protecting teachers’ voices in public education policy.
“My concept of unionism is that we have to create a way to develop infrastructure that gives you power,” Weingarten said at the summit. “How do we create the infrastructure and capacity so that your authentic voice can not just be spoken, can not just be listened to but revered and heard?” she asked fellow attendees.
Among the local teacher leaders in attendance was AFT Connecticut Vice President and Bristol Federation of Teachers President David Hayes (pictured above reporting back to our executive committee).
“During the round table discussions, teachers repeatedly raised the need for more teacher autonomy,” Hayes told fellow AFT Connecticut executive committee members in a report on the summit. “Too often teachers are perceived and treated like mere implementers of a plan devised by administrators, and often find themselves spending an inordinate amount of time on paperwork to support administrative initiatives,” added Hayes, a fifth-grade teacher at Edgewood Elementary School in Bristol.
AFT Connecticut president Jan Hochadel also attended, and echoed Hayes’ report-back from the summit to executive committee members.
“We must promote the idea of teachers as drivers of improvement, not implementers,” she told executive committee members. “What does, or should, a true educator voice look like in practice? We should redefine the definition of ‘teacher leadership’ to include developing leaders that take the ‘lead’ in changing the culture of not only their school, but the profession,” Hochadel added.
for Hochadel’s report on the summit to our executive committee.
Hayes continued, “this situation needs to be flipped around, with administrators being the ones who serve as the support for teachers in their work with students. If administrators can step aside, teachers will step up and true teacher leadership can emerge.”
Weingarten also attended our executive committee meeting and followed-up Connecticut leaders’ report with the efforts already underway within our union at the national level. She highlighted the AFT Teacher Leaders Program (TLP), which brings together select groups of educators to learn how to take leadership roles in their schools, unions, and beyond.
The program has been installed to provide teachers with strong ties to the community and informed voices, so they can be vehicles for better schools and stronger unions. About 400 educators have participated over the four years that the TLP has been in place.