In this current political climate, all too often respect for others is disregarded. Empathy feels scarce, marginalized people are met with indifference, and our public education system is labeled as failing. Yet, I am hopeful. I have seen that when a diverse set of teachers come together and leverage their differences as strengths, they can create a vision for an education system that works for all students.
Over the last six months, I worked with a group of educators, representing Educators for Excellence chapters from around the country, to revise and renew our founding document: A Declaration of Teachers’ Principles and Beliefs. On several cross-country conference calls, we listened to one another, shared our thoughts, and began to put our ideas to paper. Through surveys and conversations, we then reached out to gather and synthesize the different perspectives from our nearly 25,000 teacher members nationwide to ensure that this revision would be more inclusive of our growing membership and responsive to our evolving world.
In November, we were finally able to meet face-to-face in New York. I had never experienced this kind of collaboration. The work was hard, messy, and sometimes uncomfortable. We spent time developing language for our declaration to make sure that it was inclusive and had equity at its center. After spending time in small groups, we shared our work with the large group, where it was critiqued. It was interesting to hear how some of our words could trigger something else in others. However, through meaningful conversation and listening to one another, we came up with amazing solutions.
But even though we had never physically worked together, we could challenge one another and problem solve to make sure we put students at the center of our work and remain inclusive of all. The challenges that educators and public schools face are common to all teachers, regardless of the part of the country in which we live. The convening in New York reaffirmed my mission as a teacher and was a testament to the hard work that educators accomplish every day in classrooms across the United States.
At the New York convening, there was talk about how we could launch our new declaration at the national level in Washington D.C. If you had asked me then what I thought such an event would be like, I would have been way off. The ceremony was hosted at the Newseum - a place that promotes our First Amendment freedoms and the power of activism. Kaya Henderson and John King, two inspirational leaders, moderated panels, discussing the changes that teachers and students want to see to strengthen education in our country - with actual teachers and students sharing their ideas. But most importantly, he event was filled with people who wanted to hear from educators and students. Never has my voice been elevated to this level, even if it felt shaky at times.
Of course, having a voice all of a sudden can be a bit scary. But I am hopeful that if more educators use their voices and partner with organizations like Educators for Excellence to amplify their message, we can create real change for our students and our profession. Please add your voice to this movement and help our vision become reality.