Many of you are probably aware that I was recently named Illinois Teacher of the Year. As a result of that honor, I am a nominee for National Teacher of the Year. Part of the process was a packet of paperwork that I recently submitted to "nationals" last week. Among the many questions and topics was one that asked what my message would be about our profession to fellow teachers and the general public. Below is an excerpt from my answer...
My message would be a simple one; it is all about the kids. Regardless if you are a teacher, parent, administrator, school board member or politician, every single decision you make must come down the kids in the seats. We as educators and those that have any hand in education must be held accountable to the students first and foremost. If we cannot walk up to a child and explain to them why we made the decision we did, then we shouldn’t be doing it.
Students are what this entire profession is about and we often lose our focus in the midst of budgets, meetings, trainings, politics, and indecision. Bottom line we need to be in tune to what the needs of the students are and use all of our individual and collective resources to meet those needs. This has to go beyond words but must be reinforced with actions.
I would ask parents to use all their available resources to help their child be successful at home and trust teachers to do what is best for them. In addition, I would ask parents to respectfully advocate for their child and be as involved as possible in their child’s education.
I would ask teachers to remain focused on the kids in the classroom and do whatever they can to meet the needs of each of them individually. I would also ask them to never be content and always find ways to hone their craft to be better for their students.
I would ask administrators both at the building and district levels to stay in touch and grounded in the work being done in the classroom. They need to be present in classrooms to put student’s faces and names behind the decisions they will be called upon to make.
I would ask politicians and corporate reformers to defer to the experts in education before making decisions. If decisions are being made about education, then I would ask educators to be at the table as well as those being educated.
Lastly, I would say that we are stronger and better together and need to stop competing, hiding and being afraid of the collaboration that will benefit us all and in turn benefit students.