June 2013 Archives

Alison Crowley As a follow-up to my previous post about my experience at the policy table, I wanted to share some insights about my road to Washington—and hopefully help more teachers begin to consider what their own journeys might look like as teacher advocates. Here are a few steps that I urge teachers to consider: Set professional goals. Teachers can earn credibility as professionals by achieving professional distinctions that naturally lend themselves to advocacy. I knew that after I finished my master's degree, I wanted to challenge myself to tackle National Board certification. Even though my initial motivation was ...


Lori Nazareno Ironically, I just attended an event at the American Institutes for Research intended to celebrate and elevate teacher voice, only to find someone who is not a teacher telling the story of a situation in which I was involved. As it turns out, that story provides an example of a key point: When engaged in advocacy work, we need to know when to compromise and when to hold tight to our position. When my district in Denver was developing our new teacher-evaluation system, I was the teacher chair of the design team. Early in the process we were ...


Casie Jones Though teachers can use their voice in many forms, the most powerful discovery of my personal teacher voice was through the Teach Plus Teaching Policy Fellowship. As a fellow, I have been able to publish articles on controversial topics, compose memos to policy makers, lead focus groups around the city, organize the first Memphis teacher-led common-core conference, and even tweet with the Tennessee Commissioner of Education. Our group is in continual contact with district and state leaders to promote positive change in education based on teacher response. And the beauty of the Teach Plus fellowship is that we ...


Jennifer Martin During one of the first union representative assemblies I'd ever attended, I felt a tap on my shoulder: "You're an English teacher, right? We need some help drafting a message we're sending to voters. Can you stay afterwards for another meeting?" With a handful of members from the political action and legislative support committee, I spent the entire evening crafting the wording of a mailing and telephone script to remind voters of the need to support public school funding. To me it was exhilarating work. I was finding a place to voice my ideas and share my passion ...


Sandy Merz Previously, I admitted to having little experience in trying to influence policy. But that's going to change in the fall when I try to get my district to adjust its rules on student access to online video. No doubt unrestricted student access would suck up bandwidth as if it were a five-dollar milkshake. But teachers want to enable students without home Internet access to view instructional videos outside of the school day. Specifically, each teacher needs an additional password with video privileges, but without privileges to his or her files. The district IT person told me the chain ...


Jennifer Martin Just yesterday, my friend Linda came to me with an update on her daughter, who's spent the past year as an early-childhood educator in a Midwestern, inner-city school. Linda exclaimed, "I never thought I'd say this, but she needs a union!" Last summer, when her daughter was accepted into Teach for America's prestigious program, Linda told me she was happy her daughter was going to help solve the problems of poor children who were being under-served in the public schools. She seemed certain that her smart, spunky, and dedicated daughter could bring positive change where seasoned professionals in ...


Casie Jones Teaching in Memphis, a predominately urban and low-income district, can be challenging, especially at my school that transitions incarcerated and expelled students back to their home schools. However, one thing that I can say the district is doing well is listening to teachers. That is, if teachers want to be heard. In the past three years, Memphis City Schools' administration has welcomed multiple avenues of teacher voice. This does not always bring about the desired change, but teachers in Memphis can see that the district is listening to our views. Topping the charts for teacher voice opportunities are ...


Lori Nazareno One need not look very far to notice that many of our traditional systems and structures, including American education, are in turmoil. They are now on shifting sands, ready to fall away so that new ideas and approaches can emerge to transform education in this country. The stage is set for teachers to step up, take action, and begin to build the profession and education system that our children and our communities deserve. It is in this climate that teachers can, and must, seize the opportunity to transform our profession, formulate solutions, and advocate on behalf of students. ...


Sandy Merz I'm a teacher-leader. I think teachers, the membrane through which politics become practice, should influence policy. At the Arizona Stories from School Blog, I wrote a series on teachers who became policymakers (part 1, 2, and 3). As a member of the Arizona TeacherSolutions team, I've helped facilitate at the Arizona K12 Center's Leadership Institute. But I'm a fake. Other than one presentation to my school board, I've never spoken to policymakers beyond my school site. It's time to weigh in on an issue that enhances or hinders learning in my classroom. But I need to learn how ...


Alison Crowley Just a few weeks ago, I had an opportunity to attend a meeting in Washington about the Common Core State Standards. Several national education groups gathered to share their efforts on CCSS implementation. Of the 20 people in attendance, I was the only teacher, which I unfortunately have found to be the norm rather than the exception. Here are some lessons learned as a teacher leader advocating for my profession—which might help other teachers take their much-deserved seats at policy tables: Remember you are never "just" a teacher. Own the fact that you are the single most...


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