The past six days I was in Dallas, TX as part of the National Teacher of the Year program sponsored by CCSSO. It was amazing to meet and learn with outstanding teachers from nearly every state in our country and many of our territories abroad. As with any such experience it takes a while to unpack all of the experiences and learning that takes place. I know in the days and weeks the follow I will continue to reflect back and revisit those experiences. However, I have some initial takeaways that I am sure will apply to any teacher.
Know your message:
We had an entire session aimed to help us craft and deliver our “message” about education. Now, I know that as teachers of the year, we will be asked our opinions about a great many things and always need to be ready to provide a response. However, any teacher should be prepared with their message. What do you stand for? If you had to sum up what education is about or should be, what would you say?
Tell our own stories:
If you follow me on twitter you might have seen my venting tweet the other day.
I was sitting in a session where the presenter was advising us all on how to deal with the media. When talking about social media, he used some pretty heavy scare tactics and exaggerated stories. He mentioned teachers that had been fired or dismissed for inappropriate use of social media and blogs that said bad things about the teaching profession. As politely and professionally as I could, I stood up and pointed out that yes, teachers have been disciplined for activities on social media. However, that is not a product of social media but rather of poor decisions of a human. I also pointed out that social media such as twitter and blogs is the one true place teachers can tell the stories they want. It is here that we share our successes or failures without the bias or slant of a journalist. I strongly urge all teachers to use all tools of media to share their stories and be a positive face for our profession. Don’t fear it, but embrace it.
In our final session of the week we did a small group activity with some role playing. We were discussing the topic of teacher evaluation and were using the roles of parent, teacher, administrator and policy maker. Through our discussions it was easy to see how we often only see things from the perspective of a teacher and maybe a parent. We rarely take into consideration the decision making process of an administrator or a policy maker in the government. That is not to say that we now agree with every decision that has been made in our collective states in regards to education. However, it gave us a perspective that I know I never really think about. In moving forward I am going to attempt to keep that in mind and look at the decisions in education through all lenses and not just that of a teacher.
All in all it was a great trip and learning opportunity. With that being said, I did have one tremendous disappointment. When I stepped outside of the airport I yelled, “The stars at night are big and bright…” but I didn’t get a reply. So bummed…