I decided to apply to Hope Street Group’s State Teacher Fellowship, the State Collaborative on Reforming Education’s Tennessee Educator Fellowship, and Education Pioneers Summer Fellowship. I was surprised to be accepted to each of them! At the conclusion of this year, I have completed each fellowship. Reflecting on them, I see they each offered unique experiences that have equipped me to be a better educator.
My Education Pioneers Fellowship placed me at the Tennessee Department of Education in the Office of Licensure and Educator Preparation. Last summer I worked on a project that explored the opportunities and challenges of school districts collaborating with education preparation programs to create partnerships. Working at this level helped me to see education from a broader lens, especially regarding an initiative like that. That experience helped me to reframe my thought process and view situations from different perspectives. It also gave me access to executive directors across various departments, professional development with the Commissioner, and a chance to view the Department’s five Education Priorities at work in real time.
I participated in both the Hope Street Group and SCORE Fellowships at the same time during the 2016-2017 academic year. The Hope Street Group Fellowship connected me with other teachers and local and national policymakers to give feedback on critical education policy issues, while serving as a spokesperson for positive change in the profession. I also was able to provide feedback to the Department of Education regarding professional development, chronic absenteeism, and RTI2. Additionally, Fellows convened throughout the year to receive advocacy training to aid in our roles. Three of the most helpful things that I learned are how to utilize Twitter for professional development, how to participate in and host Twitter chats, and how to conduct a meaningful focus group.
The SCORE Fellowship selects teacher leaders from across the state to train them to advocate and elevate their voices to support and advance student-focused education policy. SCORE provided the historical context of education policy in Tennessee, including where the state started and how it became the fastest improving in the country. This Fellowship connected me with key individuals and policymakers who played a role in the state’s improvement. It also equipped and empowered me to lead my own advocacy project, which centered on supporting educators of color in Tennessee. SCORE convened Fellows four times throughout the year to provide both advocacy training to support our projects and opportunities to meet key stakeholders, including Commissioner McQueen, executive directors from national education reform organizations, state legislators, and gubernatorial candidates.
My participation in each one of these fellowships has left me feeling enlightened, equipped, and energized to continue to engage in the policy work that I have begun. As my fellowships concluded, I remind myself that the work is just starting. We need more educators involved in education policy and engaging policymakers. When highly effective educators inform and shape education policies based on their practical knowledge and experience of excellent teaching and learning, the results are better for students. I highly recommend any of these fellowships to any educator who is looking to advocate on behalf of students and make an impact in the policy space. Each one of these fellowships proclaim once a Fellow, always a Fellow. For that, I will forever be connected to these organizations, their ongoing work, and the future Fellows who participate in them.
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.
Crystal Nelson, Ed.D.
My first year of teaching was incredibly challenging, as I know it is for many. I try to stay focused on what I can control and improve, rather than all the many factors outside of my control (lack of parent support, limited instructional time, etc). This has led to improved student learning, student behavior, and personal job satisfaction.
Crystal has taught at Camden Elementary for six years teaching PreK-2nd grade general music and reading intervention and serves as RTI Co- Coordinator. Crystal served as the Benton County Education Association president 2013-2015, is an active member of Delta Kappa Gamma, and was named Distinguished Educator of West Tennessee by the Tennessee Education Association in 2014. Crystal is a graduate of the University of Tennessee at Martin where she earned a B.M. in Music Education. As a life-learner, she has also earned her Master’s degree in Educational Leadership and an Ed.D. in Leadership and Professional Practice 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.
What if we all stopped trying to be perfect and start learning from our errors?
Teachers naturally want to perform well and do an exemplary job in the classroom. We want our students and co-workers to see us as amazing! We put forth so much effort trying to achieve greatness that we may be missing great learning opportunities. The effort and mistakes we make could lead us to learning new lessons or deepening our understanding. Dwek’s idea of a growth mindset can have an impact on collaboration and teacher growth. If a teacher has a fixed mindset, they may view the success of others as a failure of their own. They see weakness in making mistakes or they may not try to implement new ideas because of the fear of failure of making a mistake. When someone achieves great things, that makes teachers with a fixed mindset feel discouraged or inadequate. Teachers with a growth mindset are more likely to share ideas and collaborate because the conversations could lead to both teachers learning. They are more likely to try, and sometimes fail, at new strategies or ideas because they believe the failure leads to learning. Teachers should be encouraged to see others’ success as a way to grow, collaborate, and share information to have an impact on all learners.
This translates directly to students. Students may want to impress their teachers and peers. The growth mindset can encourage learners to see their mistakes and the success of others as a way to grow and learn. These students will often embrace challenges and risk failure to grow. When teachers push their students to complete difficult tasks that they may not know how to solve, they can push them to try new strategies or require them to depend on peers for help and support. In addition, teachers can become more aware of areas to reteach and focus instruction when errors occur and identified by students.
Everyone has the desire to be successful, but success often comes after a long line of mistakes and errors.
Michael is an Instructional Coach at Alcoa Elementary School. He has been an educator for 11 years. He received the East Tennessee PreK-4 Teacher of the Year in 2014 and the Wal-Mart teacher of the year in 2004. Michael is currently working on the Tennessee Standards Mathematics Review Committee and as a Teacher Partner in his school collaborating with teachers to impact student achievement. He was a Common Core Mathematics Coach in 2013. He is a graduate of The University of Tennessee, Knoxville with a Bachelor’s of Science and a Masters Degree in Child and Family Studies. He holds an Education Specialist Degree in Instructional Leadership from Lincoln Memorial 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.
passionate educator, blessed to be a technology integration specialist
I confess that I recently found myself in the above scenario. Like many of you, I am a passionate educator. I was frustrated over things that are out of my control. I found myself venting to a friend and grumbling to a colleague about initiatives that I felt excluded from but they will impact me. I became mentally drained and exhausted. I finally stopped mentally rehashing the things that are out of my control and realized that I was the one letting my frustration take root. I’m usually a positive person but I was allowing my negative reactions to impact me. It occurred to me that I have the ability to control me. Regardless of whether I agree or disagree with a process or decision, I can control my reaction and my focus.
I don’t want to be a yappy, negative educator but I want to always be a S2.A.P.P.Y. educator. I can control my thoughts and my actions. When I find myself frustrated, I can stop and find the positive in the situation and be a part of the solution, not a part of the problem. I can always have a positive attitude and I yearn to be a lifelong learner.
2017 is fast approaching. For the new year, my goal is to be a S2.A.P.P.Y educator. When I find myself getting frustrated, I will remind myself to self-reflect, be a part of the solution, keep a positive attitude, maintain a perspective that involves a positive mindset, and I will yearn to learn. I can learn from every situation and I can I always control my thoughts and my reactions. Feel free to join me and get S2.A.P.P.Y.!
Attitude is Everything
Perspective is Key
Yearn to Learn
A former high school marketing teacher with Jefferson County, Tina is currently the Instructional Technology Specialist for Hawkins County Schools where she works with teachers and administrators across 18 schools to integrate technology in K-12 classrooms. A Tennessee Department of Education iTunesU featured presenter, Tina has presented at numerous professional conferences including Tennessee’s first EdTech Summit. An advocate for technology integration, Tina works with professional societies to plan, and produce annual technology conferences for teachers across Tennessee. Tina holds a B.S. in Business/Marketing Education, an M.S. in Human Resource Development, and an Ed.S. in Instructional Technology from the University of Tennessee. She is currently pursuing her Ed.D at Liberty 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.
Similarly, in the classroom, a student may ask the question, “Are we there yet?” in the form of “Do we need to do all of this? Just give me the answer. Is it on the test?” During the past few years, the most important aspect of a student’s educational experiences has focused on end-of-year testing, partially due to pressure for students to perform effectively according to Race to the Top. Conversations by legislators, school boards, communities, teachers, parents, and students have centered on the standards and raising the bar in education through “the test.” Tests are a part of the process in evaluating student growth and achievement. Consider that learning along the way is much more meaningful when engaging and inspiring students while reflecting upon each educational experience.
Why should students be engaged in their learning experiences? Engaging students in the learning process strengthens their attention and focus, motivates them to develop and practice higher-level thinking skills, and promotes a culture of collaboration and communication within the classroom and the school community. Educators establish a student-centered environment where class time is used for inquiry and application through real-world problem solving. Teachers cultivate relationships with students, in which students feel safe, take risks, and a culture of curiosity and excitement prevails. The teacher serves as a facilitator who guides each student through multiple learning opportunities by integrating technology, real-world problem solving experiences, collaboration and communication skills, and academic growth. As educators, engaging students may mean stepping out of the classroom and exploring the world around us. John Dewey once said, “If we teach today’s students as we taught yesterday’s, we rob them of tomorrow.”
Why should students be inspired to achieve? When I think of inspiration, there are four ladies that come to mind. My sixth grade teachers, Mrs. McNabb and Mrs. Pickelsimer, my Calculus teacher, Mrs. Benita Albert, and my piano teacher, Mrs. Rothermel, believed I could succeed. My teachers encouraged me to “stay the course” and that through productive struggle, I would succeed. Carol Dweck, a well-known psychologist, explains that a growth mindset can be developed by students when a teacher intentionally praises students’ efforts and perseverance. As educators, it is our responsibility to encourage students to try again if they don’t experience success the first time. As a matter of fact, students may have to try multiple times to reach their goals. Many students may not come to class with an eagerness to be challenged. However, teachers, parents, schools, and the community must work together to find multiple methods to develop challenging learning environments for the students and also allow the students to create learning environments in which they set standards to challenge themselves. Teach students to have courage. They might have to step out of their comfort zone but will grow leadership skills and self-confidence.
Why should students reflect upon their learning experiences? In a modern, global society information is available and changing quickly prompting users to constantly rethink, change directions, and examine many different types of problem solving strategies. Therefore, educators emphasize the importance of reflective thinking during learning to help students create strategies to apply new knowledge with prior understanding to complex situations and develop higher-order critical thinking skills. Allowing time for students to reflect when responding to questions, taking the time to review the learning situation on what is known, what is not known, and what has been learned is important in the learning process. When provided with a less structured learning environment, students are able to explore what they find to be important and work within a social-learning environment that allows students to see and hear other points of view. Reflective thinking centers on the process of making judgements through justification of solutions about what has occurred. Reflective thinking is essential for prompting learning during real-world problem solving in achieving goals and standards.
Are we there yet? I hope not. I want to continue to be a lifelong learner. John Dewey stated, “The most important attitude that can be formed is that of a desire to go on learning.” One’s lifelong journey is not about finally coming to the end. Instead, it is how the journey occurs along the way, and when examining the steps, goals, and outcomes that happen throughout the learning process, life becomes all the better.
Dr. Elaine Vaughan is a mathematics instructor at Oak Ridge High School for 20 years. She is a National Board Certified teacher, Professional Learning Communities Coach, and member of the Response to Intervention district and school board. Elaine is also a member of Delta Kappa Gamma and serves on the XI State Vision Board. Through this organization, she received both state and international scholarships. Elaine was a state mathematics textbook reviewer during the 2013-2014 school year. Elaine received her Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Mathematics Education from the University of Tennessee and her doctorate from Walden 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.