Posts tagged ‘Teacher blogs’


Refocusing Teachers Speak Up

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As the year draws to a close I’ve been thinking about refocusing Teachers Speak Up. While I continue to believe that teachers need to re-brand our profession with the wider public, I haven’t had much success making that happen, even on a small scale.  Yes, people tell me the effort is important, and yes, they like to visit this website. But there are so many pressures limiting folks from doing the writing, or getting other teachers to do so. You know what they are, so I won’t recount them. But the options are limited, too, for getting teachers’ stories published in media that will be seen by the larger community. For example, I organized a roundtable discussion with a small group of teachers and editors at a big city newspaper. The editors seemed jazzed by the exchange of ideas, but never followed up, never even answered my later emails. This is not fun. I’m a person who needs some response and success in order to keep going.

I’m not abandoning this effort — but I intend to shift it a bit. This was helped along by a conversation with Sonia Nieto, a courageous, long-time campaigner for a more just and supportive education. I’ll seek to use teachers’ stories to encourage fellow educators to stay with good, meaningful instruction, in spite of the pressures that in many places seem to be undermining it. Teachers need this. Meanwhile, I will continue to invite and share stories of great classroom moments. But I will be putting more effort into identifying individual teachers willing to do this and helping them with the writing (to the extent that they need/desire such help). And I will continue to work on finding venues for sharing those stories.

So in that spirit, here are several such sharing opportunities. I hope you’ll take a look, either to consider submitting something to them, or just for your own encouragement:

  •  Why I Teach — where educators and share their stories and thinking. This is a branch of the Learning Matters TV education news organization. You may not agree with all that Learning Matters appears to support, but Why I Teach is open to your voice and your ideas.
  • Talks with Teachers — describes itself as “Inspiring stories from America’s great educators,” a cross between how-to stories and reflections on teachers’ struggles.
  • Scholars Speak Out page of the Journal of Language and Literacy Education — mainly a list of educators’ blogs. But you can propose to tell your story on it by contacting Meghan Thornton ( at the University of Georgia.

Joyous holiday wishes to all!

–Steve Z

Voices Say Teachers Must Speak Out But We Need the Teachers

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Lots of people saying it right now. Here’s blogger Beth Shaum saying it cogently in a post on her site, Use Your Outside Voice.  Happily, she includes a brief portrait of an outstanding classroom for adults. Then there are a string of comments responding to the blog post, “Why Teachers Should Educate the Public About the Profession,” which we just featured in a post ourselves last week. A typical comment on this appeared on ASCD’s LinkedIn site .  Here’s another on that site. And yet another essay, this one by Kevin Meuwissen, on Education Week’s site Oct. 15th saying that teachers have an important role to play politically, since education is inevitably political.

So more and more voices say teachers must speak out but we need the teachers. So I challenge every one of these commentators and bloggers to take steps themselves to actually make it happen, rather than just saying it’s a good idea. Get a teacher to write about his or her work and help get it published on the web or the print media. Write a portrait of a great teacher yourself and get it published on the web or in print.

I figure that I had better be doing the same myself, or I’ll be guilty of the same talking-the-talking-but-not walking-the-walk. So take a look at my latest effort — teacher Catherine Clarke’s lovely piece that I posted on my blog, “Teachers Speak Up,” on .

Another Voice Urging Teachers to Speak Out

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Thank goodness I’m not alone trying to get teachers writing about their work for the larger community. Peter Smagorinsky, at the University of Georgia, provides another voice urging teachers to speak out. Visit the website “Teachers, Profs, Parents: Writers Who Care” to read his suggestions on getting your words out there. Peter describes how he got started submitting articles for Maureen Downey’s Get Schooled blog, with the Atlanta Journal Constitution, and lists a number of venues for getting oneself heard/read.

Peter will be keynoting a session I’ve organized for the NCTE National Convention Nov. 22-24. In line with the goal of maximizing teacher voice, Peter’s talk will be followed by discussion tables at which teachers can dialogue with leaders who have actively promoted teacher advocacy. We’ll also ask everyone those at the tables to start writing their own pieces about their work, right there on the spot, to make sure that this effort begins to get some legs. We’ll have a great lineup of table leaders, and I’ll tell more about them in another blog, shortly. So if you’re a teacher s planning to attend the Convention, join us at our session, early Saturday morning — 8:00-9:15 Nov. 23rd — and you’ll have a great time helping to explain the great work we do in our classrooms.

Teachers Can Use Patch to Share Their Point of View

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One of the challenges to getting teachers’ voices heard by the public is finding media outlets that will support this. But there are a number of solutions to this — and we hope that learning about some of them will help teachers to begin speaking up and telling the world about our important work.

  • Teachers can use Patch to share their point of view. is an online newspaper that has separate websites for many local communities around the country. Anyone can set up a blog on their local site. Check at to see if your community has a site. Since we’re in Evanston IL, our blog is at . Go there now to see the latest wonderful classroom story written by special education teacher Ilyse Brainin.
  • Most local newspapers have online versions, and some welcome reader-bloggers. We found, for instance, that online news sources in Birmingham AL do this, and the Birmingham News is even seeking an education blogger now. You can use a blog to share your own stories — or gather pieces from fellow teachers and post them (with the writers’ permissions, of course).
  • In some communities teachers may be able to arrange regular education feature columns in their local newspapers. This is what the Western Massachusetts Writing Project has done. Here are some examples that we have featured on our “Teachers Writing for Support” page of this website.

So now, readers, you have one less excuse not to do this writing!

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.

Great Video on Why Teachers Stay With the Job

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Readers, please take a look at this powerful, great video on why teachers stay with the job, made by teacher Beth Shaum. Then visit her blog, Use Your Outside Voice.

And now, if you’re a teacher, ask yourself: wouldn’t it be wise to take just a few minutes each week — in spite of the intense, time-consuming work of teaching — to communicate like this in order to get YOUR outside voice out to the world so that more people understand and appreciate what you do?

Asking Teachers to Tell the Public What Matters in School

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Here’s our friend Janet Ilko asking teachers to tell the public what matters in school so that we can get beyond all the standardized testing. More and more teachers are wringing their hands about the irrelevancy of the tests and all the time consumed with prepping kids for them and giving them. But as Janet says, we’ve got to tell legislators and the public about what we’re doing that’s so much more important.

And Janet also linked us to another teacher’s post on the low esteem in which teachers are viewed these days. Same point, though: we had better explain ourselves better, because no one else is going to do it for us.

Finding Your Inner Teacher Leader

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We’ve already said we’re fans of Megan Allen, Hillsborough County fifth grade teacher who has spoken up to Congress and other public officials. Now read her advice on finding your inner teacher leader, your courage to speak up publicly to advance teachers’ voices in public education policy decisions. Ms Allen, it turns out, is active as a “teacherpreneur” with the Center for Teaching Quality, which promotes teacher leadership and teachers’ public voice (check it out!).

Of course not every teacher will wish to testify to Congress or meet with their state governor’s staff. But telling the public the vivid stories of our successes in the classroom is essential for building trust in our work. As Megan says, we teachers tend to be very hesitant about this, just as she often is. But her strategies for strengthening her own attitude are ones we all need.

Fresh examples of letters, web posts, and resources

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WE’RE FINDING TREASURE. Outstanding letters, newspaper columns, blog posts, and guides for helping teachers connect in savvy ways to the wider public. Check them out on our Teacher Tools for Reaching Out -and Examples, Teachers Reach Out More Widely-Examples, and Teachers Writing for Support pages. Then let us know what you think about these, and share your own stories too.