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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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Guest Blog: How Can Teachers Have a Bigger Influence on Education Reform?

Betty Ray

Director of Programming and Innovation @Edutopia

We knew Paula White, our guest blogger this week, would be amazing after reading her blog post called Do It From the Classroom. With equal parts fire and heart, Ms. White is not only passionate (and funny!), but she also has both feet firmly rooted in reality. We're proud to present her commentary on this week's topic, "How Can Teachers Have a Bigger Influence on Education Reform?"

--Betty Ray, Community Manager (@EdutopiaBetty) and Elana Leoni, Social Media Marketing Coordinator (@elanaleoni)

Bubble sheet burning? REALLY? Educators are talking about holding a bubble sheet burning rally?

This week's Edchat?a weekly conversation on Twitter among educators?included many suggestions to answer the question: How can teachers have a bigger influence on education reformation?, but that one about bubble sheet burning was definitely one of the more unusual!

Here's the tweet that started that thought:

@edtechsteve: Back in the day there was bra burning and draft card burning...how about some bubble sheet burning? >:-)

I LOVE that idea?but then I lived through the 70's, so I am a bit of a hippie-rebel and always have been. Look at my post in the Cooperative Catalyst arena and see my suggestions for educational reform ? I ask my colleagues to not put up with crappy educators, and also not to put up with crap. Not your usual sweetness and light from a teacher blog, hm? So, I loved the bubble sheet burning idea. Would I really participate in such a rally? Well, it probably depends on how it was set up...

The thing about bubble sheet burning is that it really isn't about being against testing?or against appropriate assessment.

It's all about feeling forced to put bubble sheet test training above meaningful teaching and learning. It's about feeling the pressure from politicians and local boards of management/supervision to make every child show what they know through multiple choice, bubble-in-the-answer kinds of tests. But you know what? As I said in this Edchat, TESTING didn't take away good teaching--we have let testing overtake good teaching!

The thought of bubble sheet burning is really all about wanting students to be "better served by more genuine, authentic assessment and feedback," as @chadsansing says. It's about teaching students well, and helping them learn habits of mind that they can use the rest of their lives. Or, as @TedSouppa said, "I am not saying get rid of tests, just get rid of making life changing choices based on JUST ONE TEST."

You should have been there Tuesday night for the weekly Edchat. You should have heard hundreds of educators share ideas as to how to change our schools to better serve our students. Yeah, there were a few naysayers, or people who tried the "but what about. . . (administrators who won't let us talk, being fearful of our jobs, the fact nothing ever changes, change is hard, testing takes all our time, etc.). However, I saw many MORE folks giving specific suggestions as to what teachers can do-today, right now, in the classroom:

@ksivick Teachers need to promote and support great teachers, be visible in our support of each other.

@mbteach Tchrs must educate themselves, be aware that their job is political whether they like it or not.

@DiginEd Teachers must become informed about the various constraints and feasible options to develop workable solutions.

@ SheldonWordNerd Don't rely on others to give you a voice! Be an active participant.

@ksivock pull up lagging peers, be cohesive, model greatness, inspire and create awe.

@hoprea Teachers can initiate debates on serious topics which might motivate students to have similar debates outside the classroom.

@BeckyFisher73: We need to begin w/end in mind - identify content & purpose of standards, measures of mastery/path & then plan to get there.

@mzmacky: tchrs need to use social media better to make their voices heard.

@mjgormans: Each teacher must start reform in their own classroom and be a positive model for others to see and emulate.

@knewton: The best teachers need to find bigger audiences.

@gcouros: Share best practices and realize that their impact on other teachers will impact their students.

@corriekelly: Getting your admins on board (even if just on twitter) would be a good start to school-wide reform

But suggestions were also about activism OUTSIDE of the classroom as well:

@cybraryman1: Teachers must have positive relations with parents & community (and media).

@johntspencer: your voice will be heard most loudly when people see what your students have learned.

@mjgormans: Open the doors and invite all stakeholder.

@pysproblem81: Instead of going up the chain, what about going across the hall. Teachers are more likely to follow teachers than admins.

@paulawhite: Be public in your work--post it on the web, podcast, share any way you can to show what works and works well.

@LisaGScott: Work the PR angle. The media and gen public need to hear more from us-- give them a reason to support us.

@mbteach: avoid being angry, avoid the blame game, speak from the heart and be willing to compromise.

@kylepace: go to that school board meeting, sign up to speak and share something you've done with kids that was powerful.

@pammoran: Move voice from back to front channel- go after leadership roles in and outside of school- speak up rather than choose silence.

@doctorjeff: Regarding Education, my open letter to President Obama.

There were also suggestions for being persistent, for not giving up:

@doctorjeff I also firmly believe that if you see obvious need for change, and it seems the hurdles are big, just think and act bigger.

@cindymariej We have to show passion but offer up real solutions. Complaining does nothing.

@hoprea Start small with those who are inspired by you - students. They'll spread the word if you lead the way.

@johntspencer: reform needs to be organic - plant a seed, let it grow subversively in the grass roots level and then they can't weed it out.

@gericoats If we all took responsibility to create real change, even just w/in our own classrooms, THAT would be real reform!

My favorites might have been these two:

@mjgormans Make it evident that the priority is not change, technology, or special interests.... it is students and their needs!

@flourishingkids When we share stories of students engaged in meaningful learning we raise the bar for our profession and promote the change we need.

They are my favorites because they speak clearly to it being all about kids?their learning...their needs...and raising the bar for all of us.

One of my favorite songs relatively early in my career was by Whitney Houston, called: "Greatest Love Of All"

It began with these words:

? I believe the children are our are future
?Teach them well and let them lead the way?
Show them all the beauty they possess inside?
Give them a sense of pride to make it easier?
Let the children's laughter remind us how we used to be

To answer the question, How can teachers have a bigger influence on education reformation?

Go with the words to that song as the first five things to do:

  • Teach them well.
  • Let them lead the way.
  • Show them all the beauty they possess inside.
  • Give them a sense of pride.
  • Let the children laugh.

Because, if you do that, you've got the beginnings of a great community in your classroom that will spill over into your school.

And you know what? I STILL believe children are the future?but today I saw a saying (on a Hallmark card, no less!) that spoke to me also:

The future is not something that you will encounter and live through. The future is inside of you waiting to be discovered.

So what are you going to do to discover YOUR future? And what are you going to do to have a bigger influence on educational reformation?

Betty Ray

Director of Programming and Innovation @Edutopia
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Comments (7)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

Dr. Mike Todd's picture
Dr. Mike Todd
Chief Learning Officer

More teachers are leaving the profession and many do not come. Why? While there seems to be some great educators out there (edchat), there are school cultures that stifle good teachers from starting or organizing reform. What do we do about the masses, many of which are tenured?

Gaetan Pappalardo's picture
Gaetan Pappalardo
Teacher, Author, Guitar––Word.
Facilitator 2014

In the words of my good buddy, Barry lane, "You don't fatten a pig by weighing it."

My two cents: Create learning communities within the school. Read, be aware, write, don't let them grind you down.

"You and me together, we can do anything, baby."
--d. matthews

Hollie Rogers's picture

Teachers are strong individuals who over come challenges on a daily basis. Recently in the state of Florida teachers rallied together to stand up to the state senate and an unfair bill that they were trying to pass. I was proud when the governor vetoed the bill that was going to hurt the educational field. This was the first time in my short ten year career that I was a part of the change. I have rallied before for an important cause, with no prevail. I was rejuvenated by this victory. I believe that this is example of teacher finding their voices and using the community to spread the message.

Chantal's picture

Education reforms will come and go. In the end, what is important is what you teach the children in the classroom. Do what is mandated and move on to bigger and better things. What is an administrator going to do if you create a great project where students were involved and learned a bunch? Blame you for making them learn? We know what is best for students and we can make it work. Whether we like it ir not we are the students' advocates and should take a stand.

Felicia Cervantes's picture

As educators we need to empower ourselves. Whatever the challenges are or what the initiatives dictate, our students' best interest must be put first. Teachers tend to spend too much time teaching rules and not enough time on actual teaching. We need to be creative and make learning meaningful. Lets spend our time and energy helping our students become independent life long learners. The best teachers are those who have influenced their students with a desire to learn.

Marissa Kentala's picture

Although it is easy to see the obstacles and difficulty associated with school reform, it is crucial for teachers to focus on the positive. Especially in trying times. I find it beneficial to think about why I went into the teaching profession in the first place: the students. Sure, there will be difficulties along the way, but as educators we need to collaborate to create a powerful learning community for our students. If we are to believe "Children are our Future," it starts in the classroom. We need to teach and model those values and learning strategies worthy of being our future!

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