There are many different types of schools. Some are productive and innovative and some crush the spirit of innovation before it can grow and flourish. Some are tech-centered and engineering-minded, while others are pitifully technology poor. Some embrace best practices and collaboration, while others are seemingly stuck in the past with doors and minds closed to one another.
If I could communicate one thing to educational policy-makers, it would be to find room for the human element. So often it seems that educational policy only focuses on data and test scores. I believe this human element is the thing which teachers see so intimately and bemoan as the un-testable variables. It comes in the form of heartbreaking stories:
Mom and dad were fighting last night...again.
The electricity was turned off three days ago. I hate cold showers.
My baby sister screamed all night. Will she ever stop?
We've been living out of a tent, but we lost our campsite today.
I wanted to come to school, but mom didn't wake up.
My dad died last week, but no one will talk about it.
My shoes don't fit, but I don't want to tell my mom, because we don't have any money.
And the day-to-day speedbumps in the road of the educator:
We're a sub short today, so we had to divide Mr. Allen's class. You're getting 5 extra kids.
Fire drill today at 9:30 am!
Cookie-dough sale kick-off celebration in the gym at 2:30 pm.
Pep-rally on Friday!
We're experiencing problems with the WiFi again.
We want the best for our kids. We move mountains for them—of fundraiser cookie dough and wrapping paper and coupon books. And we do all of this to get the funds we need to have the right technology in their hands or to have books for them to read. But it isn't equal. Not all communities have the same luxury of time and disposable income to make those sorts of things happen. Title I funds are supposed to reduce the inequity but still fall short. In addition, many schools who do not qualify for Title I funds struggle to provide for their students when the population does not quite reach the poverty threshold for Title I, yet cannot afford to self-fund.
Critics of public education often depict educators as inadequate for the job or unmotivated to teach students properly. I would argue that we are very motivated for our students. Motivation isn't the issue. It likely comes down to resources and culture. Have we enabled the resources needed for change? Have we dealt with the human needs and cultural needs creating barriers to academic gains?
So, though I appreciate the information that assessment data provides, I plead—look beyond the statistics and into the numbers and see the children they represent. Look beyond the school and see the community it serves. Educating our children is a beautiful, human act. Let's keep the humanity in the process.
Kimberly has served at the Big Ridge Elementary School for the last seven years. She has worked as a music teacher and a Teacher on Special Assignment (TOSA). Kimberly has served as Department Chair, RTI Coordinator, Next in Line for the Principal, Technical Contact and Chair for the School Wide Positive Behavior Support Cadre and she has been a Public Education Foundation’s Leadership Fellow. A recipient of the ETS Recognition of Excellence award for Principles of Learning and Teaching, she received her Bachelor of Music and Master of music degrees in music education from Middle Tennessee State University and from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, respectively, and a Master of Education degree in school leadership from Trevecca Nazarene University. She also serves as a Hope Street Group Tennessee Teacher Fellow, engaging her colleagues in providing classroom feedback to the Tennessee Department of Education on public education policy issues.
Dr. Diarese George
There are several organizations that advocate for increasing the diversity pipeline of educators in Tennessee. However, there are few that explicitly support educators of color. With the increasing number of diverse students in the state, it is important to identify issues that educators of color face in the profession and provide support, resources, and solutions so that they can remain in the profession. The Tennessee Educators of Color Alliance (TECA) fills this void. This is an organization that I am developing aimed at amplifying the voice, presence, and support for educators of color while remaining student-centered and solutions-oriented. Through this approach, it is desired that educators of color will increase in recruitment numbers, leadership roles, and recognition while producing positive learning outcomes for all Tennessee students.
One of the current primary initiatives is to establish a teacher leadership council of educators of color who represent diverse backgrounds and regional locations in Tennessee. This council will be charged with identifying problems affecting educators of color and the students they serve. Additionally, it will be developing solutions and resources, identifying organizations and current work to align with and support, and advocating for increased understanding of cultural perspective between educators of color and all Tennessee students. A near future initiative is to establish the Educators of Color Leadership Conference, which will provide an opportunity for educators of color to convene and discuss solutions to issues that trouble the profession, acquire professional development, and receive resources for further support.
If you are interesting in getting more information about TECA or how to support its efforts, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Diarese has taught Business courses at Clarksville High School for the past three years. In that time, he has served as a lead instructor for the school’s career Academy, member of the Instructional Leadership Team and an Academy lead in cross-curricular collaboration for project-based learning. He is a graduate of his district’s Leadership Development course, and a district-wide Professional Development facilitator for Microsoft Excel training. Diarese holds a BBA in Marketing and Management and M.A. in Corporation Communications from Austin Peay State University, MBA from University of Phoenix and an Ed.D. in Leadership and Professional Practice from Trevecca Nazarene University. He also serves as a Hope Street Group Tennessee Teacher Fellow, engaging his colleagues in providing classroom feedback to the Tennessee Department of Education on public education policy issues.
“One Tribe” is our school’s motto. Our team is a tribe. Merriam-Webster defines a tribe as:
1a : a social group comprising numerous families, clans, or generations…
2 : a group of persons having a common character, occupation, or interest
A tribe works together in an organized fashion, as a team, to achieve common interests or goals. Teamwork has a lot to do with successful students.
Academic success for any student requires a tribe of educationalists, community members, parents, and staff working towards a clearly defined vision with measurable goals and needs based, data-driven, interventions. District-wide guiding tenets and state standards serve as a foundation to help schools and communities build and modify collaborative processes to address demonstrated needs.
An important term is “demonstrated needs,” which vary from student to student. Every day schools are addressing needs from academic to socio-emotional. Every day it takes a tribe of people to recognize, address, and meet those needs so students can experience success. Success is not equal for all students. Every educator knows that some students have more barriers to overcome. It takes a tribe to remove these barriers or at least make them manageable for the students in the tribe.
Every single person in the school is part of the tribe, but the tribe extends beyond the school. The tribe extends into the community, into homes, and across the state. The legislature is passing the communal law for the tribe, so educators need to exercise their voices. Educators need to answer all of those surveys we get every year. The tribe has to have clear communication. It’s hard to design a well-orchestrated plan of success if the parts of the whole are not communicating. Communication has to be clear among legislators, schools, parents, and students.
All students can be successful when student success is addressed collaboratively. As Andrew Carnegie said, “Teamwork… is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.” Amazing things happen when everyone works towards a common, well designed vision to provide ALL students with a world-class and student-focused education. It’s great to be part of the tribe.
Amanda has taught English at Dobyns Bennett High School for the past five years. In that time, Amanda has served as the English 9 CoTaught Team Leader, English 10 CoTaught Team Leader, CoPresident of the Alpha Zeta Chapter of Alpha Delta Kappa International Honor Society for Women Educators and on the Tennessee Digital Learning Team. Throughout her career she has served as a school-wide Title I coordinator, school-level testing coordinator and 21st Century Community Learning Centers grant coordinator. She holds a Bachelors and Masters degree from East Tennessee State University. In 2010, she earned an Educational Specialist degree in Instruction and Curriculum Leadership from Lincoln Memorial University. She also serves as a Hope Street Group Tennessee Teacher Fellow, engaging her colleagues in providing classroom feedback to the Tennessee Department of Education on public education policy issues.