“You don’t have to wait for a place at the table. You can take a place at the table or create your own table. I think of the Civil Rights movement. They didn’t wait for a place at the table. They created their own. The Arab Spring, their own table. The Occupy Movement, their own table.”
— Arne Duncan
On Wednesday, more than 100 National Board Certified Teachers (NBCTs) took their place at the education policy table.
During a daylong event, teachers who have demonstrated their commitment, excellence and achievement in the classrooms shared their experience and expertise with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and key policy makers from the Department and the White House.
The event, which began at the White House and concluded at the Department of Education, was designed to honor and hear from the newest crop of NBCTs—teachers who have earned an advanced credential that demonstrates they are effective and accomplished practitioners.
After hearing from a host of great speakers including White House Domestic Policy Council Director Melody Barnes, I was honored to moderate a panel conversation between a diverse group of five NBCTs and the Secretary.
This rich conversation reminded me of the dedication, thoughtfulness, and intelligence that is characteristic of the teaching profession. We discussed how completing the National Board process increased how we reflect on our practice and articulate our instructional choices. We shared innovative ways that we use the National Board’s Five Core Propositions in our classrooms and schools. The bulk of our conversation, however, focused on the future of our profession and the role we play in leading that movement and taking our place at the table.
NBCT and panelist Dan Brown spoke of creating hybrid positions where teachers split their time between teaching and out-of-classroom responsibilities. The out-of-classroom time could be used to observe and mentor fellow teachers, organize family and community partnerships, or a host of other possibilities that benefit students and the school community. This would prevent teacher burn-out, improve retention, and benefit the school community.
Laura Kretschmar, another newly certified NBCT, spoke about the importance of making schools places designed for intellectual growth and collaboration. “Very few teachers can become accomplished in isolation,” she said.
Kretschmar advocated for schools to create structures that allow teachers to open the doors to their classrooms and regularly share best practices. She also challenged the country to think creatively about how to create a more diverse teaching force that better represents our students. Today, nearly 35% of our students are Black or Hispanic, but less than 5% of our nation’s teachers are Black or Hispanic men.
When we opened the conversation up to the audience, one assistant superintendent asked the panel how he could get his teachers to be as dedicated and accomplished as they are. The panel had a variety of answers, all of which involved bringing teachers to the table to provide input and guidance on decisions in their districts and schools.
Some encouraged districts to create opportunities for teachers to be part of the decision-making process at the local level through fellowship opportunities. Others suggested that districts create meaningful forums for teachers to collaborate and learn from each other’s best practices. The importance of tapping into teachers’ passions and creating opportunities for them to incorporate those passions in the classroom was also suggested. Lastly, panelists encouraged districts to create partnerships with teacher organizations like the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards and teacher unions to activate and utilize a cadre of almost 100,000 committed and accomplished teacher leaders in this work.
I was humbled by the opportunity to share the national stage with such a committed group of accomplished educators. These National Board Certified Teachers and the Secretary remind me and the nation, that it is imperative for us to advocate for our students and ourselves as professionals.
As teachers, what will we do to create a place for ourselves at the table? As districts and policy makers, what will you do to create a space so the voice of the experts is included in the dialogue?
View YouTube video of the event at the White House, including the discussion between NBCTs and Arne Duncan.
Read Dan Brown’s EdWeek blog about his reasons for becoming an NBCT.
Check out a related blog about the NBCTs’ discussion at ED.
Read the press release about the day-long celebration of teachers.