The Profession is Ours: Teaching and Learning 2015

I heard the sound of a great gear clicking into place last weekend.

I attended the Teaching & Learning 2015 Conference with a sense of joyful calm. I knew I was presenting, but I also felt comfortable with what I was presenting. I didn’t have the added stress of being on a panel with someone like Linda Darling-Hammond like my friend Jose Vilson. But, of course, he rocked it, as you can see.  What I did have was a sense of expectation. I attended T&L 2015 and made some wonderful new friends and reconnected with old ones, including Jonathan Gillentine who inspired my approach at this years’ conference.

I also attended an amazing session by #Liberty64 NBCTs about how their school has transformed over the past few years due to their leadership:

At their school, these teachers share the learning their students are doing with their community, and each other, daily.

This really lit me up because I believe it is critical that our profession begin to define itself instead of letting others use their past experiences of school as a yard stick for our teaching. The walls of our classrooms need to be permeable for parents and each other to truly become a healthy learning ecology.

Pleasantly absent was debate on Common Core and why/why not or how it should/n’t be implemented. These types of curricular debates almost seem like a cleverly designed distraction by textbook companies. The real issue is not the curriculum; it’s the testing. There were several references to assessment in sessions I attended, including acknowledgement that schools were going to get “clobbered” by recently implemented PARCC testing. But there was much less trepidation about the consequences because we teachers, principals, parents, and researchers, were the ones that would be making the next round of decisions – through a productive dialogue – about our future. Our educational system is far from perfect or even fair, but it is changing because teachers are demanding a voice in its direction.

Most importantly, there was a distinct shift in tone from last year to this year. Last year, I shared how teachers were acknowledged as experts by everyone from Bill Gates to Arne Duncan. However, there was still a whole bunch of “Teachers need to…”

Thankfully, I don’t think I heard anyone on a panel (who hadn’t taught) tell me what I needed to do as a teacher. What I did hear is the words “We need to…” and then “Teachers know how to…” This was especially prevalent in the panel on African-American education led by David Johns, Executive Director of White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African-Americans. It was the best panel I have ever seen – not just because David Johns actually tweeted with the crowd while leading the panel discussion – but because he was sharp enough to ask for questions in a way that let everyone take part. His thorough engagement of the audience was critical to what changed for teachers between last year and this year.

Last year it was stated that the education community needed to ask teachers what we need to do to improve education. This year we were asked. From the USDOE Teach to Lead to the launch of the NBPTS community of practice Advancing Teaching, to the soft launch of ATLAS (the online portal for videos of accomplished teachers discussing their practice) there was a distinct sound of it clicking. The profession is ours to take to the next level. I left the conference feeling confident we are on the right path.

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