Education Opinion

What Happens After Teacher Leaders Meet?

By Patrick Ledesma — August 05, 2012 4 min read
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On Friday, August 3, the US Department of Education hosted Transforming the Teaching Profession: A Teacher Leader Convening. The purpose of the meeting was to gather teacher leaders from various education organizations to identify priorities and develop strategies to move the RESPECT Project vision forward.

The participating organizations included the AFT, NEA, NEA Foundation, Pearson Global Fellows, Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellows Program, America Achieves Fellowship for Principals and Teachers, Center for Teaching Quality, Center for Inspired Teaching, DCPS Common Core Math Corps, DCPS Human Capital Team, E4E, Hope Street Group, National Association of Elementary School Principals, National Association of Secondary School Principals, National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, National Network of State Teachers of the Year, National TOY, New Leaders for New Schools, Teach Plus, VIVA Project, Teach for America, LEE, New Teacher Center, TEACH, TNTP, TURN, and the U.S. Department of Education (ED) Teaching Ambassador Fellowship. Over 130 educators attended.

I had the opportunity to attend this event in my new position as a Director of Educator Engagement at the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) and as a former Teacher Ambassador with ED. (Disclaimer: the views represented in this blog are my own opinions.)

The RESPECT document has evolved to be an impressive document. Through teacher input, the document describes a powerful vision for the teaching profession including plans for teacher leadership, distributed school leadership, teacher preparation, multiple career pathways, better evaluations, and compensation.

There are different perspectives on these issues, and it’s critical to have these thoughts articulated in a single document to guide discussions. All organizations have the common goal of improving student learning through strengthening the teaching profession.

Us and Them...

During the morning part of the convening, teachers and other educators from the various organizations discussed what the US Department of Education (ED) needs to do to advance the components outlined in RESPECT. This was an opportunity for teachers to network and share the goals of their respective organizations. From my organizational perspective, I was particularly interested in learning more about other organizations and how their goals matched our own.

Building on the networking between organizations from the morning, the afternoon session encouraged educators to meet within their own organization to present how they could advance RESPECT from their perspective.

Afterwards, each organization presented to a panel that included ED and White House officials who listened, then gave follow up remarks and comments.

Then WE & ALL...

During the opportunity to ask questions to the panel, the most interesting question came from a teacher, who asked the panel, “So, what’s next?”

This was a critical question for teachers, who want to know that their expertise, time, and energy will lead somewhere.

Joanne Weiss, Chief of Staff to Secretary Duncan, explained that this event was an opportunity for teachers and groups to convene, network, and discuss their own respective efforts to propose solutions. These discussions must also continue- especially outside ED.

The teacher asked a powerful reflective question. Ultimately, it’s what happens at the state, district, school level, and in each classroom that determines if these solutions are effective. In this regard, perhaps there are two answers.

First, ED should continue hosting these opportunities where different organizations can share their common goals around RESPECT. ED has convening power, the ability to highlight issues at a national level, and promote exemplars. They also have the power to frame how challenges are understood. These organizations need to help shape that framework.

Second, and most importantly, these organizations should continue networking and collaborating to increase their impact exponentially. It’s what happens next within each organization and how each develops additional relationships and partnerships with others that will make the difference for teachers at the classroom level.

After all, complex problems demand multiple solutions from multiple organizations. In launching the RESPECT project, the Secretary noted, “This new vision will not appear overnight... It will proceed in different ways in each state and district. There will be no single formula for success.”

And as each participating organization promotes solutions from their own unique and shared perspectives, we all look forward to the next ED-hosted event, and we should create our own opportunities during the time in-between.

To be continued....

Follow me on Twitter at @Patrick_Ledesma

NBCTs representing various organizations gather for a group picture.

The opinions expressed in Leading From the Classroom are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.