As a result of the loss of Behning's challenger in the primary of District 91 (see previous post), we need some positive words for those of us (parents and teachers alike) who feel that the policymakers are just not listening.
This is the lovely statement that Megan Somers-Glenn, a K-1 teacher, read at our Monroe County ICPE Community Conversation "Let's Hear Teacher Voices." (Watch it back at this link on CATStv, look for Indiana Coalition Public Education on May 1st or read our friend Steve Hinnefeld's very nice blog post about it). Let this teacher's words serve to energize you and inspire you to continue to protect and improve public education:
"I am a public school teacher by choice. Public schools take, nurture, and educate every child that walks through our doors. Our local public schools are not selective through a lottery, application, or any other process. From day one or on the last day of school, children may enroll in our schools and enter our classrooms as our students. The children who come in need us – not just as educators of academic knowledge but as educators who guide children to grow community, establish character, secure individuality, and foster a strong sense of the world around them.
I attended our local public schools and am proud to have, and now, I am even prouder to be doing the work of a local educator. I embrace how important, meaningful, and complicated my job is. Schools are a reflection of society. I take my responsibility as a teacher seriously, knowing I can help us grow by remaining in the public schools, doing the best work I am able, and working to strengthen the positives in our society. These are your schools, and we serve your children.
I love my job, but I had no idea what I was getting into when I started teaching. When I chose teaching it resonated as a fulfilling career for someone who loves children and wants to contribute to the greater good. When I started teaching, I quickly learned how layered yet enriching it really is. As an effective teacher, you can’t stop being a learner, a collaborator, a giver, a communicator, a visionary, and a worker. There is no end to this job. It is a way of life.
When I am asked to comment on what I love about teaching, I get excited. I would say, though, there are a few key things. I love the diversity my school experience brings to my life. I teach children from all walks of life and all skill levels. I love the challenge and how our school has successfully met these children where they are, cared for them, and moved them forward. I love the process of building strong relationships with my students and nurturing them to build healthy relationships with each other. I love how my students love to learn, together and independently, and I love watching them share their learning with each other and be each other’s teachers. I love how children take joy in working hard, pushing themselves to grow and move through challenges and how they celebrate each other’s successes. When they are given work that has multiple entry points and exit points, they work to the highest they can and then pull each other further along. Many times a day, I just take a look around at what is happening in the room, the different kinds of learning that is taking place, the different exchanges the kids are having, the ways they are working together and having such meaningful connections, and think this experience is giving these kids what they need in a quality way. The meaning of life is growth, and kids embody that energy.
In public education, we are working hard to overcome the obstacles we face. We are, more than ever, coming together, collaborating, and supporting each other’s growth as teachers. My school community is a family to me, and we have committed to each other’s success. Over the years I have been a teacher, we have improved our educational practices, and I have come to learn a central part of being an educator is continual growth.
When thinking about what we need to do our jobs even more successfully, the list is not as long as one might think. Class size does matter, in all schools. Having aides, preventionists, interventionists, and any kind of additional classroom personnel matters. It allows the teacher to spend more time individually or in small groups with students that need to be retaught or have continued practice on a skill. It also allows all students to have more attention in all areas which leads to a more successful school experience. Literacy coaches matter. They build bridges of professional growth, strengthen communication between administration and teachers, and affect students’ success. What is coined as Professional Learning Communities or some sort of on the clock collaboration has been significant in encouraging teachers to work together and learn from each other, and as we know, collaboration increases teacher success. Finding ways to reduce the emphasis on standardizing education by reducing the emphasis on standardized tests and, then, personalizing it more in ways that honor our children’s interests would support all of our engagement as teachers and learners. Lastly, increasing the ties between the community outside of schools and the school communities by having volunteer programs, educational outreach, and other learning services is healthy for our greater community and for the children.
The world of education right now is suffering under people who are looking to make money off of our children – charter schools, schools that take vouchers, public schools, and private schools are all in the mix as testing companies, textbook companies, for profit charters, and many others who see education as an industry, are looking for a dollar to be had rather than being truly focused on the well-being of our children. Until society realizes this and understands that many politicians are friends with the money makers, this is where we are in education and politics. When non-educators, people who have never step foot in the classroom as the role of a teacher, think they know what is best for our children and make sweeping policy changes like the implementation of Common Core, our children’s education will not be as strong as it could. There are so many in this district I respect, admire, learn from, and trust; but their voices and the voices of teachers around the nation are not heard. These teachers, every day, come to schools giving their best to the youngest in our community. It is an act of faith, courage, and love. Thank you for allowing me to speak tonight."