5 Wishes for Teachers and Students in 2018

5 Wishes for Teachers and Students in 2018

2017 is almost in the books, and it has been a whirlwind in the state of Tennessee.  Students are continuing to show growth, so much so that the eyes of the country are fixed on the Volunteer State.  In districts from Memphis to Maryville, phrases such as “bridge to postsecondary”, “personalized learning”, and “all means all” are contributing to vertically aligned learning communities committed to providing a relevant and demanding education for all students.

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3 Things I'm Thankful for This Thanksgiving

3 Things I'm Thankful for This Thanksgiving

I enjoy reading the Facebook posts from my friends each November where they get online each day and post something about which they are thankful. I think it’s important to stop and give thanks, and we often times get too caught up in our fast-paced lives to do that. Thankfully, we have a holiday that reminds us to do just that. Speaking of which, here are three things that I am thankful for during this holiday season...

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Stop Adding Value and Save the Teaching Profession

Stop Adding Value and Save the Teaching Profession

My Level 1 rating is insulting and infuriating, and I’m not alone in feeling that way. I know other teachers who have expressed to me their exasperation with their low ratings--to the point of wanting to leave the profession. Clearly, something needs to be done. TDOE’s issues with TNReady is part of the problem, and I hope that they will remedy those soon. The other part of this problem is how teacher’s evaluation scores are determined. It’s beyond time for this state to stop using the Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System (TVAAS).

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Celebrating Our Hard Work

Celebrating Our Hard Work

Despite the fact that Tennessee teachers can’t unionize, the Tennessee Education Association (TEA) has spent the past 151 years staunchly fighting for better working conditions. They have consistently stood up to school boards and school districts when policies are passed that hurt teachers.

One such example of this came a little over a month ago when TEA stood up to the State Board of Education when they attempted to enact a measure that would allow them easier access to punish teachers and revoke their teaching licenses. By law, the retention and dismissal of teachers is a decision made by the local school board and director of schools. The State Board of Education wants to substantially muddy the waters by putting that power into their hands as well. Steve McCloud, TEA assistant executive director for legal services recently said, “A teacher’s license is their most valuable possession, allowing them a livelihood doing what they love to do. Having ambiguous, confusing, and contradictory rules on how a license can be suspended or revoked would be unacceptable for any profession. We certainly won’t allow it for the teaching profession.”

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The past is never dead. It's not even past.

The past is never dead. It's not even past.

“We must teach our students that the ‘history’ of these events is far from ‘past’ and ‘passed.’ The history our students face now is a very living thing that we must learn about in order to affect change for our future. The longer we live with the myth of racism or its tendrils as bygone ideas, the more we provide the tinder of complacency that allows fires of hatred to fly through our streets.

As many of us prepare to return to our classrooms, we don't just need to buy flowers and make bulletin boards. We need to prepare and read resources (like #CharlottesvilleCurriculum from Melinda Anderson) that help us make space in our classrooms to discuss these events. We need to ensure that we treat our students' stories and the stories happening right now as a very real, living thing that our kids have the ability to change. They deserve that knowledge. They deserve that power.” I couldn’t agree more.

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Believe There's Good; Be the Good

Believe There's Good; Be the Good

Despite all of the craziness going on in the world today, I maintain that a large majority of people are good people. Occasionally, I will see a good news story posted on Facebook captioned with someone saying “This restores my faith in humanity!” The truth is that good news stories happen every single day, only they largely go unnoticed by the general public. Let’s be honest here: Fear sells infinitely better than faith and, as a result, most of the news that we consume is negative in nature. That doesn’t mean that most of the people are bad--they’re just the ones getting most of the exposure...

As important as it is for teachers to believe that there’s good in the world, we must also be the good. One of the things that I love about being a teacher is that this comes naturally to us. Teachers thrive on being role models for the younger generations, but with that also comes a tremendous amount of responsibility. In addition to learning about our content, and learning about our students, we reinforce the notions of doing the right thing, of treating others as you want to be treated, and always putting forth your best effort.

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Our Journey Continues

Our Journey Continues

Mike Stein and Marc Walls have been selected to further their work with the Hope Street Group Tennessee State Teacher Fellows program so they can continue providing a leadership voice in education policy. Both have passionately worked for the past two years as part of the inaugural group of state teacher fellows.

The Hope Street Group Tennessee State Teacher Fellows Program is a nonpartisan, nonprofit program that provides a group of diverse public school teachers the ability to develop skills around peer and community engagement, facilitating focus groups, and communication strategies while giving them opportunities to amplify teacher voice to inform policy decisions.

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