Teaching is a challenging profession that doesn’t always receive the recognition it should. Nevertheless, teachers must never doubt their own significance or hesitate to speak up Connecticut’s 2012 Teacher of the Year David Bosso told early-career and aspiring educators during a speech this winter at the University of Hartford.
“Teaching is a strange, tenuous balance between feeling empowered and humble,” Bosso told the 100 students and professors gathered for the first talk in the education department’s Dean’s Lecture Series. “We are giants. We are pillars in our communities. And any teacher who stands among great teachers, among their students, feels like they are walking among the redwoods. But even redwoods, as they reach for the sky, remain firmly rooted in the soil. On average, redwoods live over 500 years. How far into the future does our impact go?”
Honoring teachers and the teaching profession are the best ways to make sure education remains paramount, the Berlin High School social studies teacher said—and that means teachers themselves must feel empowered and not shy away from the importance of their work.
“We, as educators, are instrumental to the promise of education,” Bosso said. “We need to embrace the leadership roles inherent in everything we do. There’s no such thing as ‘just a teacher.’ We are giants in our students’ lives; we are giants in our communities. We make a difference every day—even when we may not realize it, even when it’s the toughest of days.”
Teaching is inherently a leadership position, Bosso continued. “I want to see the day when teacher leadership is a redundancy in terms. We know our kids, we know our classrooms, we are the experts and best positioned to control the conversation.”
Too often, people who have never taught drive the direction of education policy and initiatives. As 2012 Connecticut Teacher of the Year, 2012 National Secondary Social Studies Teacher of the Year, a 2019 National Teachers’ Hall of Fame inductee, and president of the Connecticut Teacher of the Year Council and the Connecticut Council for the Social Studies, Bosso has often found himself as the only teacher in a room with big names in the education world.
“I was at a meeting in Atlanta with Bill Gates who, for better or worse, has had a lot of influence in education in recent years,” Bosso said. “I had to remember to speak as the expert I am.”
Bosso said that studies show teachers make 1,000-1,500 decisions every day, and elementary teachers have 200-300 exchanges with students every hour. “That adds up to a lot of expertise,” he said.
“I’m still learning, but after 23 years in the classroom—that’s 33,000 hours, 4,000 days, 20,000 plus lessons—I think, humbly, that I’m an expert. As expert educators we have to speak from that position as we advocate for what we do. If we don’t control the conversation, someone else does.”