We Inspire Students, We Inspire Each Other

I met some great teachers this week who were in Washington for NEA’s Alumni Academy: participants from the Teacher Leadership Initiative, Early Career Leadership Fellows, Common Core Working Group and other NEA programs who are becoming advocates, leaders and mentors in our profession.

Spending time with them made me so proud of what we do for a living and grateful for peers who view education the same way I do: as a calling. Hearing their experiences and challenges and listening as they brainstormed got me fired up.

They traded ideas about how to communicate to legislatures and other audiences about our priorities, including making sure all students, no matter what ZIP code they live in, have the opportunity for a great education.

They delved into the Every Student Succeeds Act, focusing on what distinguishes it from the previous federal education law and how they can inform educators back home about it.

They talked about encouraging colleagues to get involved in activism for social justice.

They talked about the need for a continuum of mentorship for educators, one that would serve us at every stage. It would include early educators who need assistance with practical skills, but can also use help in learning how to maintain perspective in rough times.

“During my first five years, I looked like I was doing well on the job. But I was dying inside and ready to leave because nothing had prepared me for the reality of my students’ lives,” said an Ohio second-grade teacher. “It eats you up inside.”

Such a continuum would also be useful for experienced educators yearning to be re-energized and “refreshed.”

Working in groups, Alumni Academy members created resources that would help give educators in their districts a voice in how the Every Student Succeeds Act is implemented. One said she’s planning on making a flier that says up-front what ESSA is not, because so many colleagues are convinced it’s just the same old education law with a new name. Another said — only half joking — that she’d find a way to work ESSA into every conversation. (That’s what I call enthusiasm.)

One team created an online portal for new teacher induction to help beginning educators negotiate a ton of information and find high-quality professional development.

Others came up with a “testimony bank,” a repository of sample testimony that could be a starting point for addressing legislatures or school boards on over-testing, recruitment and retention of teachers and other issues.

“I’m impressed by all these ideas,” said one librarian from an Ohio high school. “It’s synergy — bringing creative people together who bring out even more creativity in each other.”

We inspire students in schools and on campuses all the time. Every now and then, it’s great to come together and inspire each other.

Originally published at lilysblackboard.org

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