Last week, was a very busy and exciting week for me. I hope that everyone enjoyed their Teacher Appreciation Week and had the opportunity to celebrate Exceptional Children’s Week with their students. Aside, from indulging in the goodies at my school, I had a wonderful opportunity to participate in a round-table discussion at the U.S. Department of Education. Yes, it’s true the U.S. Department of Education. I was so very excited.
This is truly one of the many benefits of being an active member of the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC). I had recently received an e-mail from CEC inviting special education teachers in the Washington, D.C. area to participate in a “Reform in the Classroom: A Conversation with Educators of Exceptional Children” at the U.S. Department of Education. The invitation only allowed for 15 teachers to be recommended to participate. I immediately replied and hoped that I would receive a confirmation to attend and what a blessing it was when I did.
I couldn’t help but share the news with everyone I knew. The round-table discussion was hosted by members of the U.S. Department of Education Teaching Ambassador Fellows and covered the following topics: new teacher evaluation systems, college and career ready standards (such as the Common Core State Standards), assessments and other areas of reform that are currently taking place in our classrooms every day.
I was bubbling over with an opportunity to share my voice on these areas of policy that directly affect my students and me. The good, the bad and the ugly! Many of the areas I had previously discussed in the Reality 101 blog, including teacher evaluation and Common Core State Standards. So I felt beyond prepared but nervous of what to expect especially since the intent of the discussion was to carry our concerns back to the U.S. Department of Education Secretary, Arne Duncan.
On the day of the discussion, it was amazing to see so many other special education teachers represented from the various regions. The conversation flowed so naturally—filled with emotion and passion for our field and our students. It was great to hear so many of my concerns shared among my colleagues. Though differences may vary state to state, we all expressed some common themes we looked for in policy and reform in the classroom. Those policies should honor the diversity in our classroom and be more student-centered, as well as focus less on the deficits and more on the strengths of our students.
We also want the data we collect to be meaningful in order to best support our students and ensure their success beyond assessment and the walls of the classroom. And for us, as special educators we want to have more support and time to teach our children rather than being buried in paperwork. I could go on and on just like our discussion could have but we only had an hour and half.
I can promise you this, I will continue to look for opportunities to participate in these conversations because there is no better way to be appreciated and honored for Teacher Appreciation Week than to have our voices heard.
I hope my next trip U.S. Department of Education will make a visit with Arne Duncan or President Obama himself. No harm, in aiming high.