Civil Discourse Prompts
Are teachers recognized as professionals?
Would more recognition as professionals draw better teachers?
What will define a professional?
Dainel Weisberg CEO

Daniel Weisberg is the CEO of TNTP, a national nonprofit that helps school systems provide excellent teachers and effective teaching in every classroom.

Andreas Schleicher OECD
Director for the Directorate of Education and Skills

Andreas Schleicher is director for the Directorate of Education and Skills, and special advisor on Education Policy to the secretary-general at the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in Paris. As a key member of the OECD senior management team, Mr. Schleicher supports the secretary-general’s strategy to produce analysis and policy advice that advances economic growth and social progress.

We demand a lot from our teachers. We expect them to have a deep and broad understanding of what they teach and whom they teach because what teachers know and care about makes such a difference to student learning. Teachers also need to be experts at multitasking, and they do their job in a classroom dynamic that leaves no second to reflect. And whatever a teacher does, even with just a single student, will be witnessed by many and can frame the way in which both the student and the teacher are perceived in the school. Not least, most people remember those teachers who took a real interest in their life and aspirations, who helped them understand who they are, discover their passions, and taught them how to love learning.

Share this article

more articles


Leave a Comment

For Weisberg, prestige is low because expectations of teachers are low

What does it look like to change the cultural expectations around teachers? What is reasonable to expect teachers to be able to do and what outside school issues need to be addressed in other areas of the community?

It’s up to all of us to choose a version of the teaching profession rooted in the belief — and expectation — that teachers have the power to help every student reach their goals, and an education system that gives them the resources and support to actually do i

What would this look like on a practical level?

To professionalize teaching, he believes teachers must be treated as professionals — given greater autonomy within a collaborative culture, where teachers are co-owners of change, accountability is geared toward development and not compliance, and institutions are built around learners — not the “habits of systems.”

This statement is full of powerful ideas and lays out some high – but necessary – expectations for school administrators and higher-ranking decision makers to be held accountable to. For far too long, teachers have complained about the lack of freedom they are given to lead their classrooms, which is why I am proud to see this addressed here as well. It is imperative that teachers feel a sense of ownership with respect to their classroom and the students they lead, which is why it is time to relieve some of the regulatory and administrative burdens that deprived them of the freedom to lift up their students.

Society has conceded that teachers are “powerless to help students learn in the face of any challenges they face outside the classroom.

Has society made any effort to take responsibility for the part it/they play(s) in helping its students/own children "learn in the face of any challenges they face"? This is not a "teacher's only" responsibility. It's about time society stops blaming and starts taking action.

Add to this that novice teachers in the U.S. are more likely to end up in more disadvantaged schools than their more experienced peers, and that the incidence of bullying and disruptive incidents are more prevalent than elsewhere in the world, and it becomes clear that entering the teaching profession can be tough and solitary

Where did the education system go wrong when it started placing novice teachers in more difficult and less advantaged schools? Maybe reform needs to take place higher up in the system, and not "on the ground."

Educational leaders are rarely successful with education reform unless they help people recognize what needs to change, and build a shared understanding and collective ownership for change;

This is precisely why educators also need to be in collaboration with administrators, if not leading changes themselves. Teachers are on the front lines of education and any changes need to have their concerns and opinions addressed in order to better implement them later on.

Ask almost anyone for the best way to raise the status of the teaching profession, and they’ll probably tell you to give teachers a big raise.

Beyond increased salaries, the teaching profession should be more exclusive. When the industry becomes more exclusive, it will only allow the best of the best to enter into it. The ability to become a teacher can become more exclusive by having higher expectations placed on people who want to teach, more prerequisites, and higher qualifications.

Underachievement becomes the accepted norm. Weisberg calls for school systems to better equip teachers for the really hard work of making challenging material accessible to all students, believing the profession will be elevated when — even under the hardest of circumstances — students are expected to keep academic pace and teachers deliver on that expectation.

This makes me think about what Professor Skandera said about people in New Mexico who thought that poor Latino and Native American kids couldn't learn. I think it is important to acknowledge that there are things outside of school that can impact a students ability to learn, but that shouldn't turn into an expectation that the student can't learn. It shouldn't result in lowering the standard for kids that are low-income or racial minorities just because you have created a perception that their situation is beyond help. This type of logic is really damaging to the children and it tells them that they can't be as smart as other kids who are richer than them or of a different race.

ill require even more attention to what’s happening in classrooms each day, not less). We can’t blame teachers for underestimating themselves or their students if we’re not equipping them to turn high expectations into reality — or if society and even their own unions are telling them it’s an impossible task.

This is quite powerful. Teachers are expected to take students to places in academia that no one even believes is possible. When I was learning about how to practice therapy in my last program one of my professors said to us, "We can't take others further than we've taken ourselves". That stuck with me and I think that it can be applied here in the sense that if schools or unions dont think that teachers can execute effectively then teachers themselves may not believe they can either. In turn, teachers may carry that over when thinking about student achievement and potential.

The quality of an education system can never exceed the quality of its teachers.

Our education system could only be as good as our teachers. If we want to invest in our education system, we must first invest in our teachers. We must equip them with the skills and resources they need to accelerate in our classrooms. That should include training on background and culture, awareness on social issues surrounding children such as abuse, poverty, or learning disabilities. Along with that emotional support and psychological resources should also be provided to our teachers so they can take care of themselves as well.