‘About Teacher Voices -Posts’ Posts


Learn from Teachers About Why They Teach

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on Teacher Appreciation Day, what better activity than to get parents, friends, community members, legislators, and others to learn from teachers about why they teach. So go to the Learning Matters website page on “Why I Teach,” and enjoy, add your own explanation — but also use Facebook, Twitter, email, and any other tool you have to get these testimonies out to the wider world.

Teacher Who Goes to Washington to Make Her Voice Heard

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Here’s a blog post by Joey Starnes, a teacher who goes to Washington to make her voice heard there. And she keeps her blog going, as well, to talk to the world about education. I’m not sure how many people in the general public read such teacher blogs — but at least she’s putting her voice out there and growing accustomed to it.

Imagine what would happen if thousands of teachers descended regularly on D.C. to demand more resources for education. Yes, the Save Our Schools group has done this once. But it will take lots more.

Rita Pierson Tells EXACTLY What to Appreciate in Teachers

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OK, I know I just put up a post. But Rita Pierson tells exactly what to appreciate in teachers, and I couldn’t wait to get this out to everyone, in her TED Education talk. Listen and watch her and know that indeed you are appreciated, if it’s only by your students. (Thanks, Marilyn Hollman, for sending this link to me!)

May 7th Is Supposed to be Teacher Appreciation Day

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May 7th is supposed to be Teacher Appreciation Day. If only we were! In any case, this would be an excellent occasion to explain to the community just exactly what we should be appreciated for (and if you’re a Teachers Speak Up follower, you know exactly what I’d like you to do).

In an op-ed on the “Take Part” website, Greg Mullenholtz, a math coach in Silver Spring MD, touts the new RESPECT program sponsored by the US DOE as the voice of 5700 teachers advocating for what teachers need in order to be supported in their work – and thus truly appreciated.

We’ll admit that we don’t love everything about the RESPECT initiative — it seems to start from the assumption that teachers are a rather weak bunch at this point. And it seeks such a broad range of improvements in our schools that it’s hard to know where to start. The Take Part website is a bit mixed as well, with some posts and articles that defend the most draconian of policies. And we can’t see who guides this site. However, at least teachers’ voices can be found there.

So besides receiving some cookies in the teachers’ lounge, what will you do to help people appreciate what you REALLY do?

Two Great School Stories Recognized Publicly

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It’s great to see that at least sometimes good schools and teachers are appreciated in the press. Here are two great school stories recognized publicly.

First, a whole school district in Hartsville, SC, is working with community partners and a retired corporate CEO to implement a whole-child approach to kids’ learning (developed by child psychologist James Comer).

And first-grade teacher Carol Hines in Farmersville, PA, gets lauded in the local paper as she had her students study about, write letters to, and finally interview a local marine corporal who served in Afghanistan.

We are always curious about how these stories come to light. Anyone connected with a school can get it started, of course. But it sure would help if teachers were taking the lead.

Lessons About Civil Rights We Do Not Learn In History Books

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I spent last weekend at the National Writing Project Urban Sites conference in Birmingham, AL, and what a weekend it was. Along with the usual events at a conference of educators, the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute held its own convention. So we heard about the city’s history of civil rights action from people who participated — who joined thousands of children to march in 1963 and go to jail. Probably the most inspiring conference I’ve ever attended.

And what lessons about civil rights we do not learn in history books — extremely smart organizing, courageous teachers who taught the kids to seek their rights, and a level of violence and intimidation to try to stop them that was far higher and more brutal than I had ever imagined. There was also the silence of many good people, until things got so bad that they couldn’t be ignored.

The theme of the NWP conference was “Writers of Social Justice: How One Pen Can Change the World.” But my question in my speech was: “Whose pen?!” And the answer: Every one of us must know it’s OUR pen. The budget cuts and school closings and narrowing of curriculum and attacks on teachers are today’s version of social injustice because they hurt poor children the most.

So you’re busy, you’re overwhelmed, you have no time. But you know what you really need to do.

Solving the Imaging Problem of Public Education

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So our friend Peter Smagorinsky wrote a piece for the Atlanta Journal Constitution, (linked here) reminding people of the long observed fact that a large majority of people view their own local school as fairly good. But the same survey respondents see education as a failure overall. This, he points out,  comes from the picture painted by the “accountability movement” and the media. Peter sees this contradiction as an “imaging problem.” Peter then focuses on the mistaken, counter-productive steps and positions being taken by these “reformers.”

We’d like to take this argument in a different direction, namely: how do we fix this imaging problem? The reformers will keep up their drumbeat. We believe it must be countered by the teachers who are the true reformers, who are doing great things in their classrooms. When enough of us, along with supportive parents and community members, speak out to describe those powerful moments of learning that we see, then we’ll begin solving the imaging problem of public education.

PS: Be sure to read the deluge of comments following Peter’s article. While some disagree with him, many testify to the great, hard-working teachers they’ve appreciated.

VIVA A Great Teacher Voice Forum

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The VIVA Teachers Project strives to gather teachers’ ideas on specific issues in locations around the country. Its website also features blog posts by teachers on various topics. Take a look at the posts on teacher voice itself — it’s well worth seeing thoughtful teachers struggle with how to best use their voice to inform the public, and how to negotiate their differences as well s their common values. And read VIVA founder Elizabeth Evans’ piece on visiting schools and marveling at the great ones.

If you teach in a community where it’s active, you’ll find VIVA a great teacher voice forum. It’s easy to lend them yours.