Earlier this month as I listened to educators from across the country discuss teaching and learning with White House and Department of Education officials, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of pride for what the discussion represented.
First, it was affirming that the views of those in the field are being honored, spotlighted, and listened to by the administration. This can only help deepen understanding of what it means to teach and learn, thereby hopefully helping to better match policy with the needs, challenges, and opportunities of those who are affected by those policies.
Additionally, the discussion represented the countless amazing individuals in this country who, like the thirteen educators present in the discussion, overcome tremendous obstacles every day in order to increase opportunities for children to learn. Teachers, students, parents, mentors, community members, counselors, administrators and other individuals who work to support students often times are in situations where the conditions required for success are insufficient. This is increasingly the case as amazing teachers across the country are faced with the prospect with losing their jobs at the end of this school year due to budget cuts. Yet, those who can, fight on; they persist, and they carve space and hope for change to occur so that people can have a chance to fulfill their American dreams.
As a Teaching Ambassador Fellow this year and an English teacher the last seven years, I have worked to strengthen student voices and opportunities, most recently with a new discussion series at the Department of Education called Student Voices, where students discuss monthly education topics with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. This similar aim of increasing understanding through dialogue is essential when considering the gaps between education policy and practice, and the stakes equated to our education foundation, including individual livelihood and the intellectual and economic strength of our nation.
Successful and systemic education reform requires both an open dialogue with those who are deep in the field, as well as communities of people who share the collectively responsibility to educate all children. As teachers around the table discussed topics including parental engagement, online education, and systemic conditions needed to maximizing teaching and learning, I couldn’t help but feel as though it represented so much more. It was a step towards opening a dialogue, increasing understanding, and recognizing that communities are shaped by those within them, and the more we can support individuals who do this work, the more we can champion change for all students, schools, and communities.
Linda Yaron is a Teacher Ambassador Fellow and Los Angeles English Teacher.