Sharing the Vision, by NEA Director Heidi Matthews


9/16/2014

"If you want to build a ship, don’t herd people together to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea." — Antoine de Saint-Exupery

That’s the secret, isn’t it? At the heart of any magnificent endeavor is a vision for the better future. In building a ship, it is easier to rally people to the immediate construction task “collecting wood.” It is more important – and distinctly more difficult – to begin the work with a united vision of the blue waters on the horizon and a collective “longing for the endless immensity of the sea.”

In our world, we build an educated citizenry, not ships. As educators, we spend considerable time “collecting wood” with the daily tasks required to make our classrooms and school communities function. In fact, we spend so much time in this all-consuming work that I fear we haven’t done a very good job of sharing our incredible vision: A great public school for every student.

When you get down to it, who doesn’t want a great public school for every student? Yet, I’ll wager that if you reflect on your last dozen conversations about education, they were focused on what isn’t working and what we shouldn’t be doing.

Just like our classroom expectations, our NEA vision statement clarifies what we want in our better and brighter future. I’m sure you have all thought about the pink elephant immediately after being told not to, right? Consider the impact that this type of paradox has on education. When our dialogue consists mainly of our own distracting pink elephants of testing, dropout rates and “bad teachers,” there is little thought of anything else. Of course, disregarding the toxic level of standardized testing won’t make it go away. Denying the reality of court cases regarding tenure in California won’t protect us from experiencing fallout.

As educators, must fight with all our collective might to defend against these threats, but if we do so without also providing a solution or an alternative, we fall short. I challenge you to make a deliberate, subtle and powerful shift to focus on the positives of our vision of Great Public Schools. Instead of saying ‘no’ to testing, we can say ‘yes’ to more time for teaching and learning. ‘No’ to tenure threats becomes ‘yes’ to professional expectations, training and compensation.

The responsibility for this vision belongs to YOU – not your Association Rep, local president or our UEA leadership. Solidifying our professional leadership is grass roots work that can happen anywhere - in the grocery store, through our Facebook posts and in our faith communities. As we model our passion for education by focusing on a positive vision, we are teaching people to long for the sea before asking them to collect wood.

Our vision is a Great Public School for EVERY student. Live it out.

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