In July I will begin my 20th year of teaching with as much anticipation and excitement as I began the first year. I did not foresee that excitement last June. Then I came into contact with some amazing young teachers at a little charter school in north Baton Rouge. A few were from the area, a few had just landed in our town, and a few represented Teach for America. I wondered what I could possibly do for them, but they much for me.
I keep my first school picture as a teacher at my house and I sometimes want to jump into that picture and ask that girl what she was thinking. These young teachers allowed me to ask those questions. What I found was the belief that what we do in education matters and I rediscovered the spark that has driven me for years to believe in the children some would discard. These young educators have little understanding of politics and power-plays or scripted programs and rote-lessons. These young educators have none of the tarnish many of us gain as we fight the fight, fail, and continue to flail. Last week was bittersweet as some of them left us to return home, but I am so please to know they will teach.
Then, yesterday I was blessed to work our job fair where approximately 300 educators came with smiles to apply for jobs. I met a young woman who walked up to me, handed me some Play-doh and began teaching me a high school English lesson. There were young people from all over the country, from the best universities, standing there and asking to teach! I asked each of them what was their ultimate ambition. They were candid and many replied to work in educational policy. What I liked was they realized they could not write policy for something they had not done. One precious young lady replied, "Well, I want to write policy, but I suspect I will love teaching too much to leave it."
On a sadder note, there were older, veteran educators who were feeling the crunch of accountability. One man had a very impressive 25 year coaching resume', but admittedly had little to offer in the classroom. He told me times were hard and education was not about what he knew anymore. I was so sad for him as I realized our world had changed and no one helped him learn and grow.
Times are changing. These young people walk into a world where their students' test scores will be public knowledge. I asked for scores in the interviews. I work at a charter school. Results matter. These young people will have to be able to teach and prove it. These young teachers will also have to bring a great love of children to the classroom. As much as I have resisted some of the accountability efforts, what I have learned this year is the teachers who loved their kids, encouraged them, believed in them, had students who outperformed everyone. So maybe, just maybe, these teachers walk into a world where expertise is valued and results are transparent. They will not all be the treated the same, but rather as individuals who are rated and categorized, BUT they will have to learn from each other in order to survive. The rest of the world understands this, we have begun to grasp the power of collaboration.
I enter next year knowing if your classroom door is not open to your peers and to new ideas, you may need to find something else to do with your life. So, come on year 20 adn beyond. I can't wait! There is a young breed of educators coming and these brilliant people bring with them a desire to turn around an education system and see no child is left behind. They under