City Neighbors Teachers and Staff

City Neighbors Teachers and Staff

Teacher Voice

The other day, I heard someone say, “We need to give teachers voice.”     At the risk of offending that well-meaning educator, that statement seems so silly to me.    

Teachers have voice.   And, by the nature of their work, their experience, and their proximity to the students, their voice is informed, filled with invaluable observation and knowledge, and powerfully in the present.    In schools, no matter the structure, teachers find ways to use that voice and its embedded expertise to respond to students’ needs, adapt curriculum (whether they are ‘allowed to’ or not), work with families, influence practice (whether they are invited to or not), set culture, create and problem-solve with colleagues, and so much more.    In schools where that teacher voice is suppressed, dismissed, or disregarded by systems, leaders, or practices, the voice does not disappear – it just sounds different and its possibility is muted.

Now imagine schools that embrace and harness the power of that teacher voice.   We are not talking about ‘allowing’ voice or ‘inviting’ voice.   We are talking about embracing it, nurturing it, listening intently to it, encouraging it, celebrating it.    The beating heart of our City Neighbors Schools is that teacher voice.    Teachers create curriculum and projects that land in the intersection of their expertise and their understanding of their students.    Teachers are decision-makers in the hiring process for all staff.   They create and develop policy and structures – from schedules to discipline policies to evaluation.     They lead professional development.    They serve on the Board, Committees and the Foundation Council.    Their voice – that voice that is present in every school everywhere – is strong, thriving, and impactful.      They – as a thoughtful, expert collective and in partnership with school leaders, parents, and students – create our schools.   

It requires arrogance or a misunderstood sense of authority to assume that any leader can “give” voice to teachers.    The question isn’t whether teachers have voice.    The question is whether colleagues, administrators, districts and policy-makers are humble enough and smart enough to listen carefully to that voice.    

Mike Chalupa

Academic Director, City Neighbors

Want to know about some great schools who believe in the voice of teachers?  Check out A Smarter Charter:   Finding What Works for Charter Schools and Public Education by Richard D. Kahlenberg and Halley Potter.    This book highlights eight thriving charter schools in the United States who are fulfilling the promise of charter schools and public education.    City Neighbors Charter School is highlighted throughout the book as one of those successful schools along with High Tech High, the Morris Jeff Community Schools and other nationally known schools.  You can pick up a copy at, of course: