June 17, 2015

Teachers Talk Back: Jesse Balderas

Jesse Balderas teaches 4th and 5th grade at Broadway Elementary. He is in his 6th year teaching and is serving as a facilitator, which involves providing PD for other teachers. In this conversation with Danielle DeSantis, E4E-Los Angeles Outreach Director, he shares about his experience on the 2015 E4E-Los Angeles Teacher Policy Team on Common Core Implementation.

This interview has been condensed and edited with the interviewee’s approval.

Danielle DeSantis (DD): What inspired you to be a part of the Teacher Policy Team?

Jesse Balderas (JB):  Knowing former Teacher Policy Team Members. They talked to me about the work they’ve done and it inspired me. Through the 6 short years I’ve been teaching I’ve seen so many changes in education. I’ve seen resistance and acceptance, but I’ve found myself complaining too much. I felt like I didn’t have a voice, and other people had a voice that I didn’t like. I did some research on Educators 4 Excellence and I felt like if I joined, I’d have more of a voice and I’d be able to turn that complaining into something useful and productive. Since I’ve started I’ve found myself complaining less and feeling better about myself. I’m actually doing something for not only myself but my colleagues and other teachers!

DD: What has the Teacher Policy Team process been like for you?

JB: Exciting! I’ve never done anything like this before. I’ve learned how public policy works and how we as teachers can advocate for change through the channels of our bureaucracy. It feels like I’m making a difference outside of my classroom, which is something I’ve always wanted to do—making a difference inside and outside of the classroom.

DD: What is one recommendation that you think it particularly important?

JB: I think having the district envision a CCSS transition plan, but using long range goals versus short range goals because we should do the same things with our students in the classroom. We always give our students a goal—i.e. “By the time we are done with this unit, this is what we should be able to…” and the district needs to do the same thing. They have all of that CCSS information, but I as a teacher don’t know how to process it because of how the information was delivered. They need to communicate the plan to us, and we all need to work together. Not just teachers, not just from one central location, but everybody has to work together. If we do that this process can be a lot smoother. 

DD: Why is that recommendation so pressing?

JB: I think it is urgent because I’ve seen as a teacher that there are misconceptions about Common Core. I even heard how administrators and school sites talk about how they get so many faxes and mailings from publishers on CCSS. But they are offering same textbooks with an added CCSS sticker on the front. There hasn’t been enough communication and what communication we have had has not been executed well. Parents don’t know what to look for in their teachers’ instruction and teachers don’t know what are the important pieces to communicate.

DD: Why did you I become a member of E4E?

JB: I want to be active outside of the classroom. I can do a lot with my students, but there is a lot I can do to advocate for my students’ rights and the rights of teachers. We as teachers don’t always feel like we have that voice and E4E is able to provide that space so that we can speak our minds freely and openly.