Chalk Talk: Tracy Netter and Dan Gannon
“Teachers aren't asked nearly often enough what they think about the issues that are impacting our students, schools, and profession," said Tracy Netter, a visual arts teacher from Chicago.
That’s one of the reasons why Tracy jumped at the chance to once again serve as a member of the Teacher Advisory Group for Voices from the Classroom, E4E’s nationally representative survey of what teachers think about the most urgent issues in education.
Later this month, E4E will release the 2020 survey that was designed by teachers to capture crucial insight on the views of educators across the country on a wide variety of issues impacting students and the teaching profession. And just like our first survey, current educators helped design the questions to ask their colleagues.
“If we’re surveying teachers, it only makes sense to have teachers involved in the design of the survey,” says Dan Gannon, a high school social studies teacher in New York and a member of the Teacher Advisory Group.
Dan and Tracy, along with eight other teachers, met throughout the fall to review results from the 2018 survey, provide input into what questions should be included this time around, and discuss topics that are top of mind for teachers and students. The group of educators then met in Chicago to examine the 2020 survey results and strategize how to roll out the data in a way that injects teachers’ voices and views into key conversations and discussions. While it was the first time many of them had met in person, the advisory group instantaneously created a community among each other. And while reviewing the survey results, educators promptly related to the data and read beyond the lengthy spreadsheets of numbers and percentages, and knew they weren’t alone.
As Tracy said, “when you look through the results and see that teachers nationwide are thinking the same thing you are, you feel emboldened and validated.”
By capturing various teacher voices from all U.S. regions with a representative sample, Dan says, we don’t just see a small snapshot of one community, but a diversity of backgrounds and experiences from all over.
And this survey data, Tracy and Dan believe, can be a catalyst for change that will equip teachers with a tool to elevate their voices beyond the classroom. “All we ever do is tell stories about our classroom experiences without being able to ever say, ‘and here’s the data that backs up why I feel this way. And it’s not just me -- look at all these teachers who feel this way,’’ says Dan. “The survey data helps strengthen our message and turn up the volume on our personal microphones.”
With the 2020 presidential elections and campaigning season in full swing, Tracy says the time is ripe for change and that educators must amplify their voices. She thinks educators can use the data to hold candidates accountable to ensure candidates propose and enact teachers’ solutions to the biggest problems in education.
As for Dan, he knows that word of mouth is a powerful tool from experience organizing as an educator in New York. Encouraging local politicians and policymakers to talk with educators will attach human stories to this data, spurring decision-makers to action and moving the work forward.
“I want to get policymakers and politicians not to just look at this data, but bring us to the table to hear about our experiences that support the data. Our stories are similar -- it doesn’t matter if it’s a kindergarten teacher or 12th-grade teacher,” says Dan. “We must use this data and our own personal stories to improve the teaching profession and education system for all.”
Whether it’s in Chicago, New York, or another locale across the nation, Tracy and Dan, and a slew of teachers will be ready to share their experiences over the coming months. Stay tuned for the release of Voices from the Classroom 2020 survey and see how you relate to the data!
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