Almost 20 years ago, when I was working at an outdoor education center with student groups from New York City, my brother gave me a book. It was called Amazing Grace, by Jonathon Kozol. In this book I learned what many of my students at the center were experiencing– lives filled with challenges I could have never known. They suffered struggles with poverty, violence, the consequences of the AIDS epidemic , and schools that were crumbling, served by inexperienced teachers. They were in environments where it was almost impossible to prosper. A few miles away, mostly white students were in modern, well lit schools with experienced teachers and plenty of resources. This stunning and outrageous American truth dropped on my shoulders and has never left.
Since reading that book I went on to earn my Master’s in Education and to read his other books, including Savage Inequalities. I became a teacher in Vermont and his words reminded me to look out for students who might not have the same privileges as others in my class and to work to create inclusive communities for students. I knew that a large part of my job was advocating for students and creating an environment where they could learn and grow no matter what challenges they faced.
When I wrote my first education book, Why Great Teachers Quit and How We Might Stop the Exodus, I dove again into Kozol’s work, which had not lessened in its intensity, power, and compelling nature. I read (and placed about 1,000 sticky notes in) The Shame of a Nation and Letters to a Young Teacher. His words have been fuel for my work as a teacher and writer.
Today, I had the honor to meet him at the Rowland Foundation’s annual conference and hear his thoughts on equity in education. Here are a few:
“The most important factor for success in schools is not something external. It is the creativity and professional autonomy we grant our teachers.”
Getting ready to leave for the Association of Middle Level Educators conference in Austin, Texas. I’m excited to be presenting my research, The Doing Revolution, on Wednesday, October 12th at 9:45 at the Austin Convention Center. Please come join me if you can!
I’m also helping out on two presentations with the University of Vermont’s Tarrant Institute for Innovative Education. These are personal and immediately applicable table sessions about shifting roles in personalized learning; and a concurrent session about how to launch makerspaces and genius hours. I am thrilled to be part of this work in transforming education and sharing the progress happening in Vermont.
My publisher, Corwin Press, will also have a table at AMLE. I’m hoping they’ll bring copies of Why Great Teachers Quit and How We Can Stop the Exodus, so we can concentrate the ways to help keep great teachers in the classroom.
So far, I’ve heard the bat bridge is something not to miss in Austin. What else?
In my new role as a professional development coordinator I have been busy planning and writing about project based learning, proficiencies and personalized learning plans. On a regular basis my brain is full to bursting with new research, teacher ideas, education articles, and more. So lately I’ve turned to illustrating concepts and ideas with sketches and doodles, kind of like in high school and college. I never really did stop doodling. This time, it helps me communicate information in a different way and improves my synthesis of information. So, I’ll be posting my new #edudoodles here in this new series.