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Teachers and Education Policy: Two Voices in Dialogue: Part 4

Teachers Anthony Cody and Patrick Ledesma, both NBCTs and members of the Teacher Leaders Network, have taken two very different approaches to promoting the teacher voice in education policy. Anthony began with an open letter to President Obama, and then launched a Facebook group, Teachers' Letters to Obama, which now has more than 3,000 members—some of whom spoke with Secretary Duncan last May. Patrick has served for the past four months as a Teacher Ambassador Fellow for the US Department of Education, and in that role has represented teachers in discussions of policy. What follows is a dialogue between them, sharing their perspectives.

The following is my own closing thoughts for the series.
(Part 1, Part 2, & Part 3)

Hello Anthony,

Thanks for your response and you have now made your purpose for our dialogue very clear.

On your first post, you originally stated:

"I am not sure where to go with this dialogue now. I am committed to the idea of a dialogue - an exchange of ideas and perspectives in the hopes that we can learn from one another."

In my follow up post, I suggested that we establish a process for "sustained dialogue" to begin clearing the "logjam of ideas" and maybe even reach out to our professional organizations to better understand how they represent our teacher voices with ED. I expressed the fact that teacher discussions with ED are going on in many different forums and venues, so we should join those efforts to advance the teacher voice.

On your third post, you stated:

My purpose is not, as you suggest it ought to be, to achieve a "sustained dialogue." My purpose is to change the disastrous policies currently being enacted by the Department.This dialogue with teachers remains broken, and cannot be mended, much less sustained, without a clear shift in the Department's policies on these core issues.

And you wrote in the comments of my post:

If the Department of Education wishes to have a dialogue with Teachers' Letters to Obama, they know where to find us.

Without any interest for additional dialogue unless it results in the changes you seek, I guess that's it for our conversation for this series.

I was hoping that through our topic "Teachers and Education Policy: Two Voices in Dialogue" we could better understand the "teacher voices" we both have accessed through our respective experiences so that we could better coordinate what the teacher voice could look like in policy in current and future discussions.

I understand that the formation of TLO and the other educators you have spoken with shaped your perspective and I appreciate the additional background information that caused you to not want additional dialogue unless it results in the changes in current policy.

I can respect that at this point in your advocacy; you just want to draw that line in the sand. You seem to keep referring to the same specific event that happened almost half a year ago. Perhaps things didn't go as planned despite the good intentions on both sides, but just as other teachers have moved on with their efforts, discussions, and understanding of issues through their professional organizations that represent them or through other opportunities, perhaps you will seek other opportunities to achieve your goals in the future.

I'm not a policy maker, so in my role as a facilitator I can only seek to help build bridges for dialogue to find solutions to these difficult educational challenges that we all wish to solve.

In my professional and graduate coursework experiences, I see a much wider range of teacher views and opinions, and the issues as far more complex.

There is a great deal that can be learned by understanding the diversity of views in our large profession and the other interests who seek a role in public education to improve the lives of students. The teacher voice is present, informally and formally, throughout our professional organizations, associations, and other groups. Our respective viewpoints are just a small part of those efforts. It is encouraging to see that teachers seek other venues to learn more about the education issues to form their opinions on issues.

I agree with your comment that '"having a seat at the table can never be an end in itself."

I would add that "having a seat at the table is necessary to achieve the goals teachers seek."
Sustained engagement is a difficult and complex part of that process. As teachers, we remain engaged to make steady progress with students in the classroom, that same level of endurance and professionalism is needed at all levels of policy.

The advantage of our brief interaction is that we are on a public forum. While this conversation represents my own personal opinion only, I will do my part as a teacher ambassador to pass on our discussion to ED.

Although this conversation was brief, it did clarify some of the current issues and perspectives, so in that sense, it was time well spent for both of us. Perhaps dialogue will continue in the future.

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