In the 1950’s Toyota implemented the Andon Cord. It was a physical rope that followed the assembly line and could be pulled to stop the manufacturing line at any time. Just think, any worker had the autonomy to stop production at any time in order to fix a problem. Management understood that the workers who were on the line understood the products the best and gave them the ability to suggest changes.
Do educators have an Andon Cord? My concern in education is that the adults who are closest to the students often do not have their voices heard. I believe that successful schools not only listen to their teachers, but embrace teacher leadership in real ways. In fact, a recent study found that “students who go to schools where their teachers have a leadership role in decision making perform significantly better on state tests.” (Will, Madeline. “Students Fare Better When Teachers Have a Say, Study Finds.” Education Week, 1 Nov. 2017)
I believe that Teacher Leaders are poised in the perfect position to do this work and here’s how:
- Teacher Leaders understand the principles of adult learning. They know how to develop a collaborative culture of collective responsibility in schools.
- Teacher Leaders value and utilize research. They understand how it can be used to inform policies and practices.
- Teacher Leaders understand the evolving nature of teaching and learning. They can use this knowledge to promote job-embedded professional learning.
- Teacher Leaders model curiosity, continuous learning, and reflective practice. They can use these attributes to demonstrate how to grow and improve.
- Teacher Leaders understand authentic assessment. They can guide educators on ways to use data to support teaching and learning.
- Teacher Leaders demonstrate the importance of communication. They can use this to enhance collaboration with families, communities, and supportive entities.
- Teacher Leaders know how to articulate the importance of education. They can use this to emphasize the role education plays in the lives of our children.
My plea for administrators, policy makers, and community members– listen to your teachers! As Sir Ken Robinson stated, “There is no system in the world or any school in the country that is better than its teachers. Teachers are the lifeblood of the success of schools.” It is time to use this wisdom to combat the challenges that face our schools.
Chris Gleason is an instrumental music educator at Patrick Marsh Middle School in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin. He is the 2017 Wisconsin Middle School Teacher of the Year and the first Wisconsin teacher to be named a finalist for National Teacher of the Year in 50 years. Chris was also a semifinalist for the 2017 GRAMMY Music Educator Award and the recipient of the 2016 Michael G. George Distinguished Service Award. He is the past chair of the Wisconsin Comprehensive Musicianship through Performance (CMP) Committee and the Wisconsin State Middle Level Honors Project. He is active as a clinician and speaker in Wisconsin and across the Midwest.