Sunday, March 20, 2011

Another Busy Week Flies By

Wow! This has been one of those weeks that, as I look back over the events that have taken place in the last few days, feels more like a month has passed than just a week.

I started out on Monday morning attending the President's education policy speech which was delivered at Kenmore Middle School in Arlington, VA. (The photo to the left was taken at that event.)

In addition to myself, the following individuals attended the event at Kenmore: VEA Vice President, Meg Gruber; Fairfax Education Association President, Michael Hairston; Arlington Education Association President, Wanda Perkins; Education Association of Alexandria, President, Gina Miller; Prince William Education Association President, Bonnie Klakowicz; Loudoun Education Association President, Sandy Sullivan; Beblon Parks, Director of the Office of Field Services, Staff Development, and Minority Engagement; and UniServ Directors Lisa Staib and Kelly Paine of NOVA UniServ (District 7).

The policy speech was centered around the President's recognition that we need to fix No Child Left Behind which is now being referred to as re-authorization of ESEA. He indicated that there were a number of provisions in NCLB that needed to be addressed and corrected including some of the more punitive measures that have made that legislation so onerous. He also referred to the fact that without correction, most of the schools in the country are going to be labeled as failing, a ridiculous outcome about which we as teachers have been complaining from the beginning. What the President did not expand upon were the specifics of his thoughts or ideas as to how the reauthorized ESEA will look. The most specific thing he mentioned was his desire to having something to sign before school starts in August 2011. Given that it is already mid-March, I am not sure how realistic that goal is, but I certainly join him in his sentiment that we need to fix the problems with NCLB, and the sooner the better.

On Tuesday, I flew into New York City in order to attend the first International Summit on the Teaching Profession. I was invited by the NEA along with a number of other state presidents and members of the NEA Board of Directors to attend this event as an observer. Sixteen countries attended this event including the United States. The team members from the U.S. included Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, NEA President, Dennis Van Roekel, AFT President, Randi Weingarten, and the Executive Director of the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), Gene Wilhoit. An overview of the meeting can be found here.

It soon became clear that those countries that are most successful in getting their students to achieve academically are systematically promoting the teaching profession as one that they truly value. Their collective respect for teachers and the work they do came though everything that was said throughout the conference. Leader after leader pointed out the damage being done by the public discourse that is occurring in the U.S. right with regard to teachers and teacher quality. I sure hope that those who are in the position to change the public discourse got that message. I know that it came out and clear for me.

After the International Summit concluded, I stayed over as a participant in the Celebration of Teaching and Learning which is an annual professional development conference sponsored in part by WNET, the public broadcasting station for New York. NEA is also a sponsor of this event, and this is the third conference I have had the privilege of attending. Plenary speakers included news anchors, Reheema Ellis, Cynthia McFadden, and Brian Williams. Dr. Mehmet Oz offered a fascinating presentation on the importance of health and health education. Newark Mayor, Cory Booker was also part of the program, and he offered some thoughtful and insightful commentary on the education reform movement in this country.

This is a great conference for teachers, and many from New York and New Jersey attend annually for professional development opportunities. This year, the conference was attended by individuals from all 50 states and 16 countries, so it had a more international flair than usual, but that was because the participants in the International Summit on the Teacher Profession were all invited to stay over for the Celebration of Teaching and Learning event.

Today, as I write this post, I am sitting in the Richmond Airport getting ready to take off for the next trip which will take up most of this coming week. I didn't even get to go home. I got off the plane from NYC and checked in to head for Chicago.

Busy days, busy weeks, and busy months continue to fly by. Events across the nation continue to create concern but I am especially mindful today of the American troops who are engaged in the combat over Libya and the ongoing crisis that continues in Japan.

We live in difficult times. It reminds me that we need each other more than ever which is why the VEA is so important to our members. Thank you for all you do in your everyday endeavors.

Until next time.