When I began my year as a Classroom Teaching Ambassador Fellow, it was a priority of mine to bring my students into the experience as much as possible. My hopes were exceeded last month when my Advanced Placement Government and Politics students got a first-hand lesson in federal education policy from Assistant Secretary for Communications and Outreach at the U.S. Department of Education, Peter Cunningham.
After a morning visit with Detroit Public Schools, Mr. Cunningham traveled to my school — Pioneer High School in Ann Arbor, Michigan, on January 21 . After giving us a brief description of his job, the Assistant Secretary talked about the Department’s work to recruit and reward high quality teachers and to support education reform taking place in schools across the country. He spent most of his time answering their questions, which ranged from inquiries about No Child Left Behind to whether he knows Rahm Emanuel.
I was proud of my students’ thoughtful comments about the importance of listening to student input when evaluating teachers, their concerns about “teaching to the test,” and the need for arts education.
“They’re more than just classes for me,” said one of Pioneer’s music students. “It’s who I am.”
While in Ann Arbor, Mr. Cunningham and I also conducted a round table conversation about education policy with teachers, and earlier the same day, we visited several schools in Detroit. I appreciate Mr. Cunningham’s visit, which provided a unique opportunity for me to visit and learn more about the Detroit schools and to give my students and colleagues a chance to contribute to our national conversation about education. When the bell rang to signal that class was over for my AP students, everyone was disappointed. After the kids applauded, Mr. Cunningham responded, “That was fun!”
And it was.