Last week, I had the opportunity to attend a public hearing for feedback on the 2016 draft mathematics & ELA standards in my community. The meeting was held in the cafeteria of what once was a middle school, that was closed due to lack of funding. The room was set up with 24 burgundy plastic chairs, only to be filled by 8 people.
You read that correctly, EIGHT people.
Of the eight people present, 2 were classroom teachers, representing two districts and one grade level. Initially, I was taken aback by the turn out, comparing it to the turn out I experienced when the standards were initially being reviewed. As I sat, listened, and took notes on the feedback that was shared, I thought about my experience a year prior. I remember having things to say about the standards, yet not sure how to say it. I remember being content with just writing my feedback, versus sharing it verbally for others to hear. I remember wanting to have my voice heard, but in the least public way possible.
I remember wanting to “meow”, to make a bit of noise, to share my expertise, and retreat.
Fast forward a year and I have volunteered my time as a member of the review & refinement work group for the mathematics standards. I have visited the offices of our legislators on capitol hill in DC, prepared to have conversation about the state of education in Arizona. I have learned to engage others in important work that impacts the profession. I have learned to advocate for the profession I believe in and one I am invested in.
As I sat through the public hearing I heard a few different stances on the draft standards. Some stakeholders agreed with the changes made, some want to go back to the 2010 standards, & some requested that the state dictate a curriculum and instructional strategies to teachers, in order to make sure all Arizona children were learning the same way.
I listened, first to understand, then to make comment, this is when my “roar” started to build inside of me.
My roar surfaced after the last comment, the comment about dictating curriculum & instructional strategies.
I listened to ensure that the commenter wasn’t making a mistake in his request, or had a misunderstanding of the terminology being used. Then I took notes & marked reference points to reply to his comment as well as share the reality of being an educator. I pointed out the definitions for standard, curriculum and instruction that can be found in the introduction of both the draft ELA & math standards. I shared that as a professional, I have been trained and entrusted to make decisions about instructional delivery. I have an understanding of best practices and differentiation, which goes against the request made. As a professional, I work with the district to review, vet & add input on the curriculum that is adopted, focusing on meeting the needs my students while using the standards to guide the work. I was intentional about using the words professional, expertise & trained, hoping to enlighten the participants. Making clear that teaching is a profession and should be regarded as such.
In that moment, I knew a meow wouldn’t suffice. I had to share my story, I had to share my students’ stories, I had to roar.
In reflecting, I know there are many factors of why more people didn’t show up to the public hearing, yet I believe in making time for things that are important. The state of our profession, the engagement in advocacy, & the opportunity to have a voice in decisions is something I am willing to make time for. As I move forward in engaging colleagues & other stakeholders I will continue to be intentional with my asks and provide support where needed.
There are still many opportunities to share your experiences either in public hearings for the 2016 draft standards, as well as online opportunities to provide feedback. I encourage you to move beyond a meow, share, review & provide feedback.
Do what’s in the best interest of students and the profession, and find your reason to ROAR.