The day began with breakfast and a panel discussion on teacher leadership. Then, we hopped on the bus to begin the day again.
U.S. Department of Education
We took the bus to the U.S. Department of Education. It’s the place teachers hear about throughout our careers. We wonder about what really goes on there. Who are the people behind those doors who make decisions for us and the students we teach? I must admit that I had some preconceived notions before walking in. I expected to be talked to. I expected that we wouldn’t see eye to eye about some of the critical issues. I was wrong.
I found everyone to be incredibly down to earth. They were there to listen and took notes on the things that we shared. We divided into groups and went to examine a new initiative called Teach to Lead. We are the only educators to ever hold that document. It was hot off the presses, and we weren’t even allowed to take it from the room. I love the plan. Basically, it is an initiative to create and increase leadership roles for teachers who want to lead, train, but stay in the classroom. I asked about hybrid roles for teachers, and this is exactly what this could be. Not every teacher wants to be a principal. I don’t. It’s not for me. However, I would love a hybrid role that allows me a more flexible schedule to teach classes and also mentor and help teachers in my district. This initiative addresses the problem that many teachers face in wanting to lead while still having a direct impact on kids. I actually got to work on this initiative, and my fellow STOYs and I are looking forward to opportunities to do more with it.
My group leader took us on a tour that included Arne Duncan’s work area and dining room. (They often eat right there in order to keep working.) The people there are working hard and do have our best interests and our kids’ best interests at heart. They are writing policy, and sometimes, by the time it filters down to the states, it looks different. There is an implementation gap, and the department agrees that those gaps have to be worked on. Basically, they are regular people who actually aren’t that scary at all.
The Capitol Tour
After leaving there, I got with Pam Reilly (Il) and Beth Maloney (AZ). Pam’s congressman set up a tour of the Capitol for us. We traveled through the rain to meet our husbands there. I was so impressed with all art in the building. There were two statues for each state, student artwork, and hand painted ceilings and walls. We got to go through the tunnel and we sat in on a house hearing on Guantanamo Bay. We walked a LOT, and we girls had sore feet. Finally, we left to go back to the hotel to get ready for the gala. It was pouring down outside and we couldn’t get a taxi for the longest time. The husbands sacrificed themselves when one came and they let us have it. They eventually made it back….dripping wet. We only had 30 minutes to dry off and get to the gala!
We made it to the gala on time but in the midst of a storm. My dress was soaked at the bottom, and my hair got wet, but we were all in great spirits. Everyone looked so spiffy in their formal duds. It was like the Oscars for teachers. There was a multi-course meal, a string band that dispersed and played at our tables, and many dignitaries in the house. We heard from AFT and NEA (Lily Garcia rocks!) and President Eisenhower’s granddaughter. Secretary Duncan also spoke about the changes that need to occur in public education. Throughout the night we got to glimpse into the classrooms of the four finalists for National Teacher of the Year. Amazing! I love these people! I even got to tell Secretary Duncan about my platform to inspire teachers to lead and exercise their voices. I told him that I loved Teach to Lead. He joked that he had come to Texas and snatched that idea right from me. We took tons of pictures (these few don’t do my collection justice) and ended the long day exhausted, giddy, and inspired to keep improving our craft.