Teachers as Participants

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Teachers as Participants


Covey, while staying at a hotel,  [1] noticed employees assisting clients, going far beyond the requirements of duty. One incident he relates is of an employee who was high up on a ladder cleaning windows when he saw a woman having difficulty with a walker. He climbed down and went to her, assisted her into the lobby and saw that she was properly taken care of. [2] In reading this, I myself was touched, as such customer service is rare. So impressed was he by the way they treated clients that he asked the manager about the mission statement, to be told that it was the product of all the employees; everyone. They had all been involved in making the mission statement.

So struck, was Covey by what he saw that he wrote: ‘without involvement, there is no commitment. Mark it down, asterisk it, circle it, underline it. No involvement, no commitment.’ [3]   Steven Covey’s book, ‘The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,’ was a huge best seller; this idea – involving workers in decision making – is one of the ideas which must have resonated with the hearts of many readers, who must have wished deeply that their thoughtless ego filled bosses would listen to them and include them in some, at least, of the decisions taken at work? Such an invitation from their bosses would communicate respect and care, something which a number of bosses seem bereft of. Covey speaks with great depth of feeling about the need to ‘involve,’ saying ‘it’s not a quick fix. It takes time and sincerity, correct principles, and the courage and integrity to align systems, structure, and management style to the shared vision and values. But it’s based on correct principles and it works.’ [4] Oh how many people in general, and teachers in particular would love to see such changes in alignment of systems and structure.

Teachers have been fired, sometimes with a meanness that staggers the mind, and with an intent, which is often achieved, of humiliating; even whole schools have been fired. They have been blamed, been threatened to have tenure taken away from them, their evaluation made dependent on student passes, offered merit pay as though a little money is all teachers want.  Their treatment has run the gamut of punitive measures and have plumbed the very depths of meanness. And somehow they expect that this deluge of disrespect, threats, firings, tenure removing, will stimulate teacher output and performance. Indeed, the actions of the policy makers seems to have violated, in entirety, Covey’s Theorem. But they expected improvement.  Their behavior runs diametrically opposite to what Covey is recommending. Covey’s words were, ‘no involvement, no commitment.’ The conclusion is more than obvious.

In his book ‘Who Controls Teachers’ Work,’ Ingersoll in speaking of Friends School comments on the ‘Stark contrast to the other schools, the assignment of courses to be taught at Friends School was done collectively and collegially by departments, not unilaterally by the principal.’ [5] It means that teachers can get in a group with department heads and work out the assignment of classes so that everyone is satisfied, and school goals met. It is this type of involvement which fosters commitment as it makes the teacher an integral and valued part of the school.

According to the book, ‘Trusting Teachers with School Success,’: ‘Teachers at autonomous schools report that their sense of accountability for school success encourages them to innovate. Most are constantly on the lookout for what’s not working well and most willingly put in extra effort to find new ways of doing things,’ [6] But this is precisely what we would like to see in our schools. Whatever it is, grading policy, curriculum, lessons, intervention, when teachers are able to meet and discuss the problems viable solutions will come forth leading to an optimization of school performance. One teacher from one of these autonomous schools says: ‘Whenever necessary someone can call for a discussion [about what’s not working well] and if change is needed we can make it right here, right away.’ [7] That is precisely what we want in schools, teachers able to call for a meeting to discuss problems, bringing to bear the collective knowledge, experience, and intellect of a faculty in addressing problems. There is a sense of purpose acquired from these meetings which bring faulty together. They heighten the sense of commitment to the school and each other, and cannot be done by any other means. Since decisions are reached by consensus teachers accept and respect those decisions feeling that at least they were listened to. Down the road will come a time when their ideas will be given greater attention.

In its youth Google had implemented the 20% rule whereby employees could spend a fifth of their time on a project which excited them. Some of googles products originated from this twenty percent time off. Teachers have been asking for less classes and students, in order to avoid the overload which leach them of creative energy, and takes up time they need to spend on students’ work and parents. The decades long requests from teachers need to be attended to for it is the way to fix many of the problems facing our schools.





[1] Seven habits of Highly Effective People,

[2] Location 2623 kindle Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.

[3] Loc 2677 Kindle, Seven Habits of Highly Effective People

[4] The Habits of Highly Effective People, Kindle location 2862

[5] Who Controls Teachers’ work p 129

[6] Trusting Teachers with School Success, p 34.

[7] Trusting Teachers with School Success, p 62

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