It's time to change the tenor of the conversation


11/15/2010

As I sat in the audience at a recent conference, the guest speakers were introduced by way of saying  they were full of apprehension at being asked to speak to the state leaders of the National Education Association. The host went on to say that it took great courage for those with opposing points of view to avail themselves to speak to those who might disagree with them.

I have to admit that I was puzzled. I couldn’t imagine what they would have to say to us that would invoke such fear. Were they going to say that the NEA was the “big, bad” union and responsible for all the ills in American public schools?

As it turned out, their concern was for having an excellent teacher in every classroom, holding one another to a high level of excellence and accountability, and possessing a profound belief that all children can learn. What is there to disagree with?

I’ll tell you...we must be careful of “blanket” statements about teachers, as a whole. When I heard one speaker say, “I hear all the time that testing is narrowing the curriculum, but in high-risk schools the curriculum is already narrowed by teachers who don’t want to teach in these schools. Children in these schools don’t have a broad rich curriculum.”

Now my mouth was hanging open! It is statements like these that I cannot ignore. Perhaps that was the experience this person observed, but it is critical to remember all the amazing teachers who dedicate their lives to students in high-risk areas. I had to speak up and did.

Oops, I am preaching to the choir. I wondered how many non-educator audiences heard this same speech and lacked the knowledge to discredit it. That is what is happening in our country. The naysayers have loud voices, deep pockets, and a large platform.

Bottom line, I want all of us to remember not to waste a single opportunity to educate those in public about the amazing teachers in our profession. Equally important, let’s hold one another to a high level of excellence! It is time to change the tenor of the conversation surrounding public education in our country. It begins with you!

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