My former assistant principal and all-around amazing human being, Molly Garcia, taught me about the importance of teachers undertaking a deep dive into brain research and why teachers need to understand how the brain learns. She taught me that if you know brain research or best practices and choose not to use it in your daily teaching practice, that is professional malpractice. The highest standards of our profession provide an excellent opportunity to implement Molly’s lesson.
As a National Board candidate in early childhood, I was particularly struck by Standard 10: Exemplifying Professionalism and Contributing to the Profession. It states that NBCTs are proactive. It announces that when injustices, inequalities, or acts of marginalization occur… in the educational community, accomplished teachers promote new policies or social norms that minimize bias and harm to individuals or groups (p.84). Standard 10 goes on to proclaim that NBCTs lead by example, take initiative, and inspire others through their words, efforts, and accomplishments. They use their knowledge to advocate for their profession (p. 85).
I found parallels in the Teacher Leader Model Standards – Domain 7: Advocating for Student Learning and the Profession. Function e states that teacher leaders represent and advocate for the profession in contexts outside of the classroom (p. 20).
It’s there in black and white: If you do not advocate for our profession, that is professional malpractice. Let’s dig into what advocating looks like right now, NBCTs and teacher leaders.
Most people reading this blog are passionate, educated voters. I was having a conversation with a former teacher who is a candidate currently running for office. She described being motivated to run for the legislature because she grew tired of the feelings of fear and anger every year when our legislature went into session. I really identified with her motivation, as one who feels that same pit of dread and nausea in my stomach from January until sine die each year. I’m sure you can relate. But what about our peers who aren’t as engaged in civics and the wheelings-and-dealings of the legislature?
It’s time to inspire. Engage your colleagues in conversation. Ask to think back to why we walked out last year. Remind them that we didn’t receive any of our five demands. We asked for reasonable items, including a broader definition of “teacher” to allow more certified teachers to be included in potential raises, capping classroom sizes at 25, and limiting counselor caseloads to 250 students. We got none of those. Remind them of the behavior and attitudes of some legislators last year. Remind them that we warned, “November is coming.” The truth is, we were wrong. November is too late. The time to finish what we started in April is NOW.
It’s time to put your money, your time, and your energy behind candidates who supported our movement. It’s time to encourage (or cajole) your colleagues to join you.
But don’t stop there. Only 33% of registered voters cast their ballot in the last primary election (https://azsos.gov/elections/voter-registration-historical-election-data). It’s time to move beyond our colleagues and talk to our friends and neighbors. They need to know that this election is about something much larger than ourselves. The basic tenants of our democracy are on the line in this election. This election is about the belief that all students, regardless of ZIP code, deserve a high-quality education. Remember, there are candidates out there who are looking to punish and silence us. It’s time to make sure the right people get into positions of power and influence.
This is it, our last chance to show that we were serious. Your colleagues, your students, the future of public schools in Arizona, and democracy itself are counting on you. Fulfill your professional responsibility as an educator. Get out the vote. And don’t let your friends commit educational malpractice!