Monday, April 5, 2010

What Happened to the Month of March?

It hardly seems possible that the last time I posted something on this blog, it was still February, and here I am today writing on a beautiful Easter Monday in April. Where did the month of March go?

Mostly it is a blur because I was traveling for much of the month. I started out by attending the Celebration of Teaching and Learning Conference which is a fabulous professional development conference hosted in New York City. I attended the conference with the entire VEA Leadership team who includes VEA Vice President, Meg Gruber, Sr. NEA Director, Lee Dorman, and NEA Directors, Sarah Patton and Tommie McCune. We all attended a variety of sessions and learned much. The plenary sessions were awesome and included special guests, Queen Noor of Jordan and queen of rap, Queen Latifah.

One of the highlights of the conference for me was hearing Diane Ravitch speak to her "awakening" regarding her ill advised past support of charters, choice, merit pay, etc. and her realization that research and experience do not support the success of any of those so-called "reforms." Her latest book, The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education has launched a frontal assault on those from the reform movement who contend that schools should be run on a business model.

What is sad about Ms. Ravitch's epiphany regarding these reforms is that there isn't a teacher in the room to whom she spoke who couldn't have told her the exact same thing 20 years ago when the madness first began. I love her book mostly because I could have written it myself. I think what I like most is that I finally feel validated. I just hope it's not too late to wake others up.

For most of the rest of March, I have been traveling to a variety of pre-convention caucuses in preparation for the 2010 VEA Convention which is scheduled for later this month. I have attended 10 such meetings so far and have one more coming up mid-month. I love getting out and being with our members in this way. It gives me a chance to find out what is going on and to see for myself the vast differences between our various districts and regions. I have managed so far to visit every region in my efforts to get to as many pre-convention caucuses as possible, so I have been to Wise County, Roanoke, Front Royal, Newport News, Danville, Christiansburg, and Hanover, just to name a few.

Our convention, which will be held in Virginia Beach this year, is shaping up to be an exciting one. We are planning to open on Thursday night with a panel discussion of where we should go next with regard to the economic issues facing our commonwealth and how those economic issues are impacting our schools and our students. On Friday, we will conduct business and hear a variety of reports, and then on Friday evening, we will hold our second annual Awards Banquet followed by our second annual Art Auction. On Saturday, we will wind up the business and send delegates on their way, hopefully energized and inspired to activate their locals in preparation for the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead of us individually, professionally, and organizationally.

I have no idea when I might get to write again, but until then, may I suggest that anyone who is interested, pick up Diane Ravitch's book, or take a look at Linda Darling-Hammond's latest work entitled, The Flat World and Education: How America’s Commitment to Equity Will Determine Our Future. I just read that Dr. Darling-Hammond gave a copy of her latest book to President Obama, and I for one, sure hope he reads it. I fear that he made a huge strategic error when he chose Arne Duncan over Dr. Darling-Hammond when he selected the Secretary of Education. Unlike Mr. Duncan who apparently thrives on competition, i. e. Race to the Top, where there must always be winners and losers, Dr. Darling-Hammond gets it that what our nation has striven for in the past in the education realm was equality and equity. I am currently reading The Flat World and Education and recommend it to anyone interested in an alternative way to approach education reform in this nation.

On that note, I will sign off for now.

Happy Spring everybody!