Committing your life’s work to educating children is challenging. Educating children in Arizona often takes the idea of challenging to a new depth. Halfway through my 16th year of serving Arizona’s children, I will admit that I wonder if I possess the moral courage to keep on, keeping on. And then, I am reminded that my beliefs and vision for Arizona’s children are shared.
Yesterday, on a warm December morning, a group of Arizona educators had the opportunity to participate in roundtable discussions with three Teaching Ambassador Fellows from the United States Department of Education. Our purpose was to discuss strategies to make the vision for the teaching profession by the USDOE as described in their RESPECT (Recognizing Educational Success, Professional Excellence, and Collaborative Teaching) document into a reality. No small feat.
I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the “human capital” in the room. The Arizona Department of Education, Arizona K-12 Center, Arizona Education Association, Rodel Foundation of Arizona, Colleges of Education, philanthropic organizations, etc. were all gathered to engage. As Cheryl Redfield, Arizona’s Teaching Ambassador Fellow, led us through the protocols for our time together, I was uncertain what the morning would hold. We divided into small groups and began to discuss, plan, strategize on topics ranging from Shared Responsibility to Entering the Profession. Afterwards we gathered back together and reported to the group at large our insights. Themes began to emerge despite the varied topics. Themes of rethinking accountability, the power of teachers using their professional knowledge instead of being told what to do, the necessity for kids to think and create AND the conditions that support that learning. The theme of funding emerged as well. Principals should not spend the majority of their time writing grants to support the basics. Funding matters.
I began to feel the climate in the room shifting from a group of educators representing various stakeholders to simply a group of Arizona educators whose only stake is Arizona’s children.
We concluded our time with the task of having to share one thing that the USDOE should know about our community. One thing to know is that on December 8, 2012 for two hours educators got it right in Arizona-we collaborated for the sole purpose of our children.
Now, the critical question, “How do we continue that work for the sole purpose of our children?”