Category Archives: Professional Development

Tribal Member

The birth of my daughter five years ago began a new chapter in my personal and my professional life. Since that time, I’ve been out of the traditional classroom and have been finding my own ways to engage in the field of education. Enter: Twitter.

I’ll be honest. I scoffed at my younger brother’s use of Twitter six years ago. I may as well have been Lady Grantham considering electricity for the first time. “A tweet?” I said, my voice dripping with sarcasm. “Indeed!” (Ok, I didn’t really say that last part, but man I love that layered and politely condescending expression.)

Lo, these many years, and here I am, a Tweeter with Peeps. I’ve drunk the Kool-aid and it is a tall glass of professional development, education news, and networking potential. (Also pee-your-pants memes and one-liners and weather updates, but I digress.)

It was through Twitter that I first came across The Compelled Educator, otherwise known as Jennifer Hogan. I’ve been following her (that’s the most stalkerish phrase I’ve ever had to use) and reading her blog for several months now. A few Saturdays ago, I participated in a #satchat she hosted that focused on blogging. A few days later, I received a tweet inviting me to become a part of the Compelled Tribe of bloggers.

And here we are today. This is my first post as an official member of the tribe. I’ve been assigned to a subset of the tribe that is “Fueled by Wennstrom.” I think that means someone named Wennstrom will send me coffee once a week, but I’m not completely sure. Either way, I’ll be writing two blogs a month (Accountability, thou art a stern mistress of production), one of which will be on an assigned topic and one on a topic of my choosing.

It’s been a while since I’ve had co-workers, so I’m thrilled to be part of a group of educators who genuinely love learning and have sought to carve a space in this field for their own voices. Our nation’s future hinges on the degree to which we are successful in educating future generations. What’s more compelling than that?

DOE – Take Two

Grab a seat and bust open that box of SnoCaps, ladies and gentlemen, because… well, does anyone really need a reason to eat SnoCaps? Since you’re eating them anyway, you might as well read about what happened next in my Teaching & Learning pre-conference experience at the U.S. DOE.

Next on stage is Emily Davis, a Teacher Ambassador from Florida with a sunny disposition. (Get it? Sunny and from Florida. Orange you glad I made that joke?) Ms. Davis tells us about a survey referred to as the TALIS, which stands for Teaching and Learning International Survey. She highlights two main points: First, when compared to our international counterparts, U.S. teachers spend more time in front of students and have less time for professional development. Second, although U.S. teachers are happy in their profession, they don’t believe society values the profession. (You know you’re in a room full of professionals when no snorts out loud and yells, “You don’t say!”)

While writing this post, I came across NCTAF’s page on TALIS, including a presentation hosted by Linda Darling-Hammond entitled “What the TALIS can Tell Us,” which I highly recommend if you’re interested in more findings.

Ms. Davis then turned our focus to the Teach to Lead initiative, a partnership between the U.S. DOE and the NBPTS. Teach to Lead is about “advancing student outcomes by expanding opportunities for teacher leadership, especially those that allow teachers to continue to teach.” As I’ve mentioned in an earlier post, I am really excited about this initiative. Ms. Davis told us the following:

  • TTL highlights promising models for teacher leadership
  • TTL encourages teachers to share knowledge and resources
  • A wish-list of professional organizations supports TTL, including Hope Street Group, PDK International, NEA, AFT, VIVA, two national Principal groups, and about 60 more.
  • There are several actionable arms of the initiative: Commit to Lead, regional TTL Summits, and Local Leadership Labs. What do they have in common? Teachers getting together to share ideas, solutions, and resources for teacher-identified issues.

There’s no doubt teachers want to lead – that’s why we’re drawn to a profession that allows us to lead scores of children each day up the path to enlightenment. In fact, 55% of the people attending the workshop selected “Teacher Leadership” as their breakout subject of choice, including yours truly.

Ms. Davis wraps up her portion, and Laurie Calvert takes the mic to discuss how best to influence policy. This was such great information, I’m coming back to it in my next post. Also, it’s really freakin’ late and I need to go to sleep. Happy Friday Eve!

 

 

 

 

Ready the set – and DOE!

As part of my Teaching & Learning Conference experience, I attended a pre-conference workshop at the U.S. Department of Education.

Um, aaawwwesome.

Fade in on a girl (Smash reference – yes!): I emerge from the L’Enfant metro plaza in a new black dress and heels with the wind whipping my hair back (re: making it a frizzy mess) and “Uptown Funk” playing a continuous loop in my head. In hand is my House of Representatives padfolio (because true democracy geeks buy office supplies emblazoned with government seals), as I make a successful attempt to look like I know where I’m going. (Who needs to stop and ask the police officer directions? We’re old buddies! See you tomorrow, Officer Friendly!)

I arrive at the building with time to spare, breeze through security, find the conference room, and grab a seat next to a friend from Twitter who also won tickets to the conference.

Zoom out and pan left: Teacher-fellow James Liou takes the stage and welcomes us all then invites us to take pictures at the podium. I realize just in time that he doesn’t mean in that particular moment. Liou introduces Joy Silverman, the Dept. Chief of Staff for Policy & Programs, who provides the 80 or so attendees with the latest information on the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA):

  • ESEA was first introduced 50 years ago as a civil rights law. It was meant to provide extra opportunities and support for kids who need it most.
  • No Child Left Behind (NCLB) required more accountability for resources
  • Title I was supposed to be extra money (on top of regular budget spending), but current law includes a loophole called the comparability loophole, which (to my understanding) means high-poverty schools aren’t getting extra anything from the government other than stress.
  • As of nearly two weeks ago, there was one bill in the house and a draft bill in the Senate.
  • The DOE (and many others) believes ESEA is outdated. The department says we need money for pre-K/early childhood in the bill and a concrete way to reduce overtesting. The DOE also wants to see the new bill include more resources for teachers and principals and should have ways to support innovation.
  • “Policy works best when made with people on the ground,” says Ms. Silverman at the close of her presentation.

Cue applause. There’s more to come in this suspense-filled government-educator thriller, but I’ll have to write more tomorrow. (Grape juice needs are taken very seriously around here. And I only wish I were talking about the adult version.) By means of apology, allow me to leave you with a link to more recent news on the ESEA reauthorization. Enjoy!

- Council of Chief School State Officers press release

- The National Law Review article

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Teaching & Learning & Feeling

Last week, I attended the Teaching & Learning conference, held here in D.C. and put on by the National Board of Professional Standards of Teaching (NBPTS). It was three days of back-to-back sessions and plenaries, during which I took half a legal pad’s worth of notes. I plan on writing a more fact-filled post about what I learned, but I feel compelled to write about the emotions I experienced first. Because I’m a woman and that’s what we do. While eating chocolate. So?

1. Anticipation: Although I’ve attended a handful of in-state conferences in the last four years, this was my first national conference in a long time. Also, my attendance has been primarily limited to English teachers’ conferences, so I was pretty psyched about being among fellow NBCTs from all subject areas and levels. Also, we don’t get a whole lot of men at ELA events, so hooray for people with Y chromosomes and their perspectives on education!

2. Inspired: One of the best things about conferences is their ability to emotionally move people. There’s something about being surrounded by your own kind, talking the same language, and sharing the same passions that reminds you of your love for the profession. Not to mention the words of wisdom from the big names: James McPherson, Martin Luther King, III, Ken Burns, and Sec. Arne Duncan. These people believe in teachers, and they believe in the importance of public education as a pillar of American prosperity. To have these guys on your team – well, it’s bound to make you feel good.

3. Conflicted: I would never change my decision to stay home with my kids the last four years. But damn, it’s hard to watch other people lead initiatives I’ve believed in for years, or to hear about teachers serving as ambassadors and fellows, or even to see the ways in which other teachers are making an impact on students right now. I did the math and calculated that I could have influenced 600 kids by staying in the classroom as opposed to staying at home. But how can I measure what influence would have been lost on my own two kids had I not been with them? It’s an impossible math and impossibly difficult for women (and more commonly, men) to choose – and that’s if you’re lucky enough to even have a choice. Nobody can have it all; to say otherwise is to ignore (or be ignorant of) the complexities of life. I know this truth, yet I constantly still feel the tug-of-war between domestic and professional, family and self, the werewolf or the vampire. Wait, I’ve got a call coming in – its a million women from 3rd world countries calling to tell me to shut the hell up. Moving on…

4. Called-to-action: I firmly believe that if someone had piped in “Do You Hear the People Sing” from the Les Miserable soundtrack, there may very well have been a spontaneous revolution. Desks would have been piled up to form a barricade, bottles would have been raised for days gone by, and then Jean Valjean (re: Ron Thorpe) would have led us all up the stairs of Congress to declare our freedom from high-stakes testing. Alas, a historical reenactment did not occur; however, a steady drum beat for change could be felt all three days. If a conference can have a theme, this one was “Teachers should be the leaders of their own profession, which will thereby enhance the profession as a whole.” It was invigorating to hear so many teachers discuss the ways in which they are taking on leadership positions in their schools or districts while still remaining in the classroom at some capacity. The Teach to Lead initiative, organized by the U.S. Department of Education and its Teaching Ambassadors (whom I am simultaneously jealous of, proud of, and support), is the most promising step I’ve seen in a long time toward getting educators back in the business of education reform. Sec. Duncan encouraged attendees to “make their own seat at the table,” and from what I can tell, people are trying to follow his advice.

5. Jealous: Anyone who says they don’t feel jealous of National or State Teachers of the Year is a stone cold liar.

6. Reassured: I attended a session about blogging featuring a panel of five veteran and popular education bloggers. I learned a lot from the session, but the most important moment for me happened in the hallway afterward. I happened to run into Ray Salazar, a teacher from Chicago and one of the panelists. I thanked him for a great session, and he asked me about my own blogging experience. I told him about TeacherSoup and about my journey in finding a voice online and a direction for the blog. I revealed my personal angst in wanting to be a voice in education and for teachers, but feeling a lack of authority because I haven’t been in the classroom for a few years. Here’s Ray’s reply, and why I will be forever grateful that men are different from women: “You’ve got to get over that.” My response: to tear up like I was in a made-for-TV-movie moment. Ray backed up the logic of his statement by reassuring me that I’ve got the years of experience and I also have time to reflect on my time in the classroom. We talked about ideas for how my blog could focus on the “whole teacher,” since we spend so much of our time focusing on the “whole child” everyday – usually at the expense of our own energy and time. “You’re a caregiver,” he said. And I had to agree. Ray is obviously a caregiver too, and his words and advice will stay with me as I continue to blog, to learn, to give care, and to teach.