As I was watching T.V. with my daughter this week, the idea of “changing the conversation” was the theme of this particular episode in a children’s show. The T.V. show focused on changing the conversation of female actors from what they are wearing or their appearance, to conversations about the content of their careers and how they had gotten to where they are. At this point you may be wondering what on earth I am rambling on about, but I felt a direct connection to what she was saying.
For the last few years I have been working to change the conversation about public education at the district and city level. I have expressed how amazing AZ public schools are and informed stakeholders that we educate ALL students, regardless of their means or the public schools’ means.
According to Governing magazine in 2012-2013 AZ graduated 75.1% of all high school students, which was just behind the national average of 81.4%. In AZ we also graduated 69.4% of our low income students, while the national average was just 73.3%. Neither of these numbers are 100% yet, but it is important to remember that 100% off all children in the U.S. have access to public education. This is still just the “surface”, the pretty face if you will, of what public education does in AZ.
Public education in AZ brings technology, technical education, special education, and many other educational options to children from all walks of life. We ask our public school teachers to do more with less and our public school students to trust us, let us challenge them, and let us work with them to create futures they may have never thought possible.
Teaching, in any school, is often nitty-gritty and seriously lacking in ribbons and lace. At the recent Google Educator Summit held in Phoenix, one of the key note speakers talked about the amazing work she had done for students on two continents, not only as a member of the Google Tech Team, but also as a classroom teacher. This work, this globalization of education, was because one of her teachers had created a pen-pal system with students in Africa when she was young many years ago. She had been so inspired by this connection, that it has become part of her life’s work. That educator inspired that individuals life work!
Education is not always pretty, in fact, it can be down right messy. We are partitioners and the first approach is not always the best approach. As we move forward creating the problem solvers of tomorrow, it is important that we encourage students to break out of their boxes and explore their passions. James Sanders asked his students to look at big problems and take big risks. They did, and it was not pretty 100% of the time, but they created amazing learning and growing opportunities. He challenged his students to change the conversation that they were faced with and he created amazing learners, leaders, and technological innovators in a school facing emergency room conversations.
It is up to educators to change the conversation around education. It is not Pinterest, the role of the teacher is not always played by a beautiful actress, but it is a conversation about real students and real issues. The conversation is worth having. Educators should share their triumphs and the triumphs of their students, despite the obstacles in their way. Have you told your story? Have you joined the conversation?