What is ahead for students? When I look around King Middle School and reflect on the education that the students are receiving in my school and schools across the state and the country, I see how far we have come. As a 36 year veteran of the classroom, I have seen the positive movement to develop a more inclusive educational experience. Students are planned for as individual learners, and the classroom culture is thoughtfully developed by educators. The tool of technology has provided opportunities for students to sail forward or review and retool within a classroom setting. “That’s the way we have always done it” has given way to “How is this working for our students, and how can we increase their success?”
What is ahead for the profession? I am both excited and concerned for the members of the teaching profession. The passion and drive that I witness in my fellow STOYs makes me optimistic about the future, but I also worry. They, too, are tired. They know how to move students and a school forward, but they CANNOT do two full time jobs at once. As the teacher leadership movement gains momentum, and it should, we have to be careful that we are not just turning more and more responsibility over to successful classroom teachers who are already teetering on the edge as they struggle to find balance in a finite day and week. We need to use this opportunity to structure the profession so educators can work with students, meet with parents, plan curriculum, and provide professional development all within a reasonable work day. As teachers we MUST demand a role in the conversation as others decide what is appropriate progress for a student and a school, what student achievement actually looks like and how we can quantify it, and what resources will support a strong public education system in this country. But part of that conversation also needs to include how we can develop a professional landscape that attracts and retains the best without burnout.
What is ahead for me? I have just started working with a new group of sixth graders. Tomorrow night they will share the work of their first expedition with their families. It is amazing how far the students have come this fall. These youngsters are beginning to be leaders of their own learning, and I am privileged to work with each one of them. In addition to focusing on my own teaching, I will continue to be committed to teacher voice at all levels. There are several upcoming opportunities that will allow me to bring the classroom perspective to a wider audience. Finally, I am determined to give back to the Maine Teacher of the Year program. Under the leadership of Educate Maine and Dolly Sullivan, the program was significantly strengthened this year with the selection of 16 County Teachers of the Year. The experiences of teachers from ALL parts of Maine are now represented by these thoughtful educators. As the first Maine Teacher of the Year to observe the County Teacher of the Year selection process, I know firsthand how this shift will support teacher leadership and teacher voice throughout the state.
On December 31st, I will call 2015 Maine Teacher of the Year, Jennifer Dorman, and officially “pass the torch.” I know she will be a strong advocate for students and teachers throughout Maine. Then I will start 2015 with a continued commitment to teachers and students. And I will finally sort through my collection of artifacts from this incredible year.