Third International Summit on the Teaching Profession: Sitting at OUR Table

International Summit Logo

This time of year I typically dream of travelling someplace warm, but today I woke up wishing I were in Amsterdam.

As a Social Studies teacher, I would appreciate the opportunity to dive into the city’s rich history. Today I want to be there to participate in the third International Summit on the Teaching Profession.

Education leaders from around the world, including 150 teachers, are at the 2013 Summit to discuss teacher quality and evaluation. According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) report prepared for the Summit, 1 in 4 teachers globally never receive feedback from their school leadership. This highlights an opportunity for leaders to learn from each other about improving teacher evaluation and quality at the Summit. For example, today, the Dutch Education Minister shared that Holland is using peer review in teacher evaluation—a best practice learned from the U.S.

The previous Summits have been great learning opportunities for the U.S. delegation and inspired two important initiatives. One is the RESPECT vision statement for strengthening and elevating the teaching profession (shaped by over 4,000 American teachers). The other is Transforming the Teaching Profession, a framework developed by national groups representing teachers, superintendents, school boards, and state leaders that puts forth a common vision for teaching and learning.

Today in the Twitter feed for the Summit, a number of people tweeted a quote from the Estonian delegation, “Education is under heavy pressure. Either we make more and better rules. Or we must liberate the teacher profession…” As a teacher, I know that I want to be in a profession that is shaped by teachers. But owning our profession is not simply about being seated at a table set by others; we need to recognize that is our table.

While teachers and union leaders from the U.S. and other nations are at the Summit, I can’t personally be at the table in Amsterdam this week. Still, I can be informed and engaged. Here are some things I am doing:

  • Following the Twitter feed #ISTP2013 and participating in a conversation tomorrow on Twitter.

  • Reading the OCED background report for the Summit.

  • Reflecting on how I would answer the questions that are guiding this year’s summit and sending responses to the Teacher Mailbox,

    • How is teacher quality defined by policy makers, the teaching profession and society? What standards are set and by whom?
    • How is teacher quality evaluated? What systems are in place and how are the evaluations carried out?
    • How do evaluations contribute to school improvement and teacher self-efficacy? What impact can be expected on teaching and learning from teacher evaluation?
  • Engaging in conversations with my colleagues.

  • Watching Secretary Duncan’s video played during the opening session.

Click here for an alternate version of the video with an accessible player.

Lisa Clarke

Lisa Clarke is a Washington Teaching Ambassador Fellow and social studies teacher on loan from Kent, Washington.

RESPECT Vision Released for Comment

What would it take to make America’s most important profession also America’s most valued profession?

To answer this question, 16 Teacher Ambassador Fellows — active classroom teachers working temporarily for the U.S. Department of Education — have been listening to teachers all over the country. They have held over 200 roundtable discussions with thousands of their colleagues to talk about how they envision a transformed teaching profession.

The result is a teacher-written vision document, available on our website here [MS Word, 164KB].

Click here for more information on the RESPECT Project.

Mentor Helps Native American Student Overcome Prejudice

Nellie Two Elk, a political science student at South Dakota State U.

"My passion lies in coming back to help," says Nellie Two Elk, a political science student at South Dakota State U.

Nellie kept a room full of 450 Indian Educators captivated as she shared what it was like to spend her first 5 years of life in Washington, DC and then move back to the Rosebud Indian Reservation as her father’s job changed.

At the South Dakota Indian Education Summit in Chamberlain, S.D. in late September, she explained, “In Washington, DC I never felt the effects of racial prejudices, but when I moved back to South Dakota, I felt that prejudice from my Native American peers, even though I am Native American.”

According to Nellie, her lighter toned skin and her lack understanding of their challenges set her apart as an “apple” and “white,” so she was not accepted by her classmates. Her pain was apparent as she shared, but what really struck me was how Nellie was able to triumph over her difficulties through the support and mentoring of her father.

“My father taught me that pride in my identity is a good thing and instilled many virtues in me,” she said. The importance of a mentor role in the lives of young people was heard repeatedly throughout the Summit, and Nellie’s story gave a first-hand account of the impact that relationship can have on young lives.

The theme for this year’s Summit was “Supporting Culture, Building Expectations, Creating Partnerships.” Participants celebrated this theme partly by adopting the Oceti Sakowin Essential Understandings and Standards that were created earlier this summer by the state Board of Education. This work will provide the roadmap for educators all across the state to teach the culture and history of South Dakota’s Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota people to promote understanding of the culture to help students like Nellie. Teachers spoke about how these Essential Understandings will help our Native American youth to develop the pride in identity that Nellie spoke so eloquently about.

Nellie, now 20 years old, is studying Political Science at South Dakota State University, and although she is away from the Reservation while in college, her goal is to return and try to help in whatever ways she can. “My passion lies in coming back to help,” Nellie shared.

After hearing her moving story, I look forward to seeing what this amazing young woman will do during her life.

Sharla Steever

Sharla is a 2011-2012 Classroom Teacher Ambassador Fellow from Hill City, S.D.

Read another post by Sharla about Indian education and the Rosebud Reservation.

ED’s Office of Indian Education

Bureau of Indian Education

Native Americans Tell Duncan About the Need for Reform

Arne is honored to receive a star quilt from Rosebud Elementary School.

Arne is honored to receive a star quilt from Rosebud Elementary School.

Todd County high school student body president Grace One Star spoke eloquently during a meeting with education leaders concerned about American Indian achievement.

“It’s the lack of hope around us that makes us turn to gangs and the bad things some of us get involved in,” Grace said during the Aug. 26 Rural and Indian Education Roundtable at Rosebud Elementary in the Black Hills of South Dakota “We need our teachers and leaders to bring us hope, not more brand new textbooks.”

During the discussion, teachers, leaders, and families from rural areas spoke about issues of extreme poverty, unemployment, and the heartbreaking loss of culture and language taking place on the reservations. In particular, they spoke about the challenge of recruiting and retaining quality teachers and leaders in their economically depressed and remote area.

Secretary Arne Duncan listened and affirmed the need for the federal government to increase their interest in education on Reservation schools, and for the schools to help retain the native language and culture and to recruit and retain great teachers and leaders.

After participating in the roundtable discussion, Duncan attended the commencement at Sinte Gleska University in Mission, South Dakota. It was the first time that a U.S. Secretary of Education has given the commencement address at a Tribally Controlled University.

As Secretary Duncan and other state and federal officials entered the room, a drum circle and tribal royalty danced them in. Duncan welcomed the crowd in Lakota, the native language of the Rosebud Sioux people, and spoke about the importance of the Four Virtues of the Lakota: Wisdom, Bravery, Fortitude, and Generosity. “Education is the key to Lakota future,” Duncan said. “The Lakota must speak the Lakota vision.”

Sharla Steever

Sharla Steever is a Classroom Teaching Ambassador Fellow from Hill City, South Dakota.

Link to the Rural Education Resource Center

You Teach Where?

Sharla Steever

Yes, that is the response I receive almost every time I meet someone from a large urban area and try to explain where I live and teach. We really do have schools in South Dakota, and it is one of the most beautiful places on earth in my opinion.

I have lived my entire life in rural SD, both on the rolling plains of the central and eastern parts of the state and in the amazing Black Hills of the far western region.

I currently live and teach in the small artsy community of Hill City, SD — the school district for Mount Rushmore. I love the diversity of our tiny town. We have families that homesteaded here and have lived off the land all of their lives, wealthy retired people, young families that enjoy the small town life we offer but work in the larger community of Rapid City, and a large for our area Latino population. A local sawmill and the logging industry make up a large number of our employed population, as well as tourism. Our little school (450 K-12) is approximately 45% free and reduced lunch, and 25% Latino.

One thing that I have always felt strongly about is that I want to know that my students in my little classroom are getting the same kind of quality education that they could get in other schools across the U.S. I became Nationally Board Certified for that very reason — to push myself to be a teacher that could offer a world-class education to every student that walks through my door.

It is also why I am so excited to be a Teaching Ambassador Fellow this year. I am so inspired to know that the U.S. Department of Education is interested in the issues that face regions like my rural state, just as they are interested in the many other kinds of issues for urban and suburban areas. I am humbled and very excited to serve in this capacity this year and know that the growth I will gain this year will help me continue to be a leader not only in my school, district and state, but also at the national level.

I can’t wait for the adventures that await me this year.

Sharla Steever
NBCT – 4th Grade Teacher
Hill City Elementary