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By Randi Weingarten, President, American Federation of Teachers (AFT)

Every day, educators are making a difference in children's lives—and they do it despite staggering obstacles. Recently, the AFT collaborated with the Badass Teachers Association to survey educators on how their working conditions affect them, and the results show that the obstacles they face at work are taking more of a toll than ever.

Ninety-six percent of the educators who took our survey say they're physically and emotionally exhausted at the end of the day, and 87 percent say the demands of their job interfere with family life. And that's just the tip of the iceberg.

After seeing the results of this survey, I am convinced that we need a scientific study on how work is affecting teachers and school employees' health and well-being. We're asking members to urge the Department of Education to take on this important research. ...

By Randi Weingarten, President, American Federation of Teachers (AFT)

As president of one of the leading public sector unions in this country, I see firsthand and hear stories every day about workers who make a difference in their communities and in people’s lives—healing the sick, unlocking a child's mind or improving a family's life. That is who our members are: all 1.6 million.

Yet, too often, these workers face a barrage of scurrilous attacks denigrating them and the work they do—from sources that simply wish to eliminate these essential public services and silence those who do the work.

That's why Teacher Appreciation Week, National Nurses Week and Public Service Recognition Week—all being celebrated this week in May—are more than simply a Hallmark card moment. These events offer an opportunity. They offer a moment we can join together to talk about the teachers, nurses and other public service workers who have changed our lives in small and big ways. Today, we can say thank you. ...

By Sharon P. Robinson, President and CEO, American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE)

Today is one of my favorite days of the year: National Teacher Day. For those of us who work year round to set teachers up for success, it’s a special treat to spotlight their work to do the same for students.

How do great teachers set students up for success?

Just last week, we celebrated 2015 National Teacher of the Year Shanna Peeples and the state teachers of the year, whose profiles are brimming with inspiring stories of student-centered teaching. Peeples, who teaches high school English in Amarillo, Texas, described the critical importance of building confidence and of getting to know each student’s individual context and interests. “Every student has greatness in them, and it is the work of the teacher to help them discover it,” she said ...

In our March 2015 blog, we focused on what creative tension means in the context of relationships between young people and adults in our schools. We outlined core principles and assumptions that are critical for this work, and discussed how the roles for young people and adults shift in the creative tension model.

This blog presents a series of real-world examples that demonstrate the use of a creative tension in carrying out intergenerational work within the school context. There are a few key ideas to keep an eye on. First, each example shows youth and adults working toward shared goals, with young people being viewed as meaningful contributors and partners in the process. Second, supporting their shared goals, you will see how personal goals and aspirations align with and support their collective work. Finally, each values the other’s experiences, perceptions, skills, beliefs, and ideas and understands that they are critical to achieving personal and shared goals. ...

Know of an exceptional educator who deserves recognition? It’s time to nominate him or her for a Bammy Award.

The Bammies seek to honor all types of educators who are making a difference in public education and the lives of schoolchildren—and that can be a superintendent or teacher, principal or custodian, or even a researcher, education writer, and parent.

The program is hosted by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, an independent policy and research center. The Academy nominates and chooses individuals for the Bammy Awards, it allows those in the education field and the general public to nominate and vote on individuals for the Educators Voice Awards.

“The Awards aim to recognize the collaborative nature of education, to encourage respect in and across the various domains, to raise the profile and voices of the many undervalued and unrecognized people who are making a difference in the field and to elevate educators, education and the value of life-long learning in the public eye,” according to the program description. ...

For the past eighteen months the Learning First Alliance (LFA) has been gathering stories from the field showcasing state, district, school, and community leaders who are working together to implement new higher, college and career ready standards well.  In January we released a white paper, Getting Common Core Right: What We’ve Learned that shared local stories and summarized our learning. It highlighted the importance of three key factors in successful Common Core implementation:

  • The need to engage a broad community, including teachers, parents, school boards and community leaders—from the very beginning of implementation efforts
  • The importance of separating the standards from the assessments, helping all stakeholders understand what they mean and how they apply to the classroom
  • The necessity of taking the time to get it right, realizing that implementation is a multi-year process that requires real attention to instructional materials, lessons, high-quality professional development and community engagement.

LFA believes to its core – and demonstrates on a daily basis – that collaborative leadership is essential for the success of public schooling. ...

By Melanie Zinn, Owner, Director and Lead Teacher of a Licensed Home Child Care Program in Vermont*

Editor’s note: This post is part of a series of blog posts on the early childhood education work force that the American Federation of Teachers is running in honor of Worthy Wage Day, celebrated this year on Friday, May 1. View the other posts in the series here.

We attribute many stereotypes to “those in need”: jobless, maybe homeless, lazy, struggling, etc. I would be surprised if a tidy-looking, professional person was the image that popped into your head at the mention of this phrase. However, the reality of many early educators is just that: In need. I am one of those in need, and I never thought I’d be able to actually admit it.

What could we possibly be in need of, you might ask? The picture of an educator can also be so stereotypical! A woman, right? And one in professional attire, who only has to work like 6 hours a day, who doesn’t even have the children in their classroom the entire time due to library and gym, etc., who has summers off and let’s face it, doesn’t really deserve to earn as much a doctor or lawyer or engineer, right? Oh, so wrong! ...

By Kwok-Sze Wong, Ed.D., Executive Director, American School Counselor Association (ASCA)

As a University of Florida graduate, I was happy to see Tim Tebow get another chance to play in the National Football League, this time with the Philadelphia Eagles. I don’t understand why the football world is so disparaging of him. At UF, Tebow led the school to two national championships and won a Heisman trophy as the best player in college football. Since he entered the NFL, the main criticism is that he has a low percentage of completed passes.

In 2011, Tebow was named the Denver Broncos’ starting quarterback when the team had won only one game and lost four. He turned the abysmal season around, leading the team to its first division championship, and first appearance in the playoffs, in six years. But he only completed 46.5 percent his passes, so the Broncos brought in superstar Peyton Manning, and after standing on the sidelines with two other teams, Tebow has been out of the NFL for two years. He completed less than half of his passes when elite quarterbacks complete of about two-thirds of their passes. Seriously, what difference should that make? When Tebow’s given a chance to play, his team wins. Isn’t that what’s really important? ...

By Stephanie Hirsh, Executive Director, Learning Forward

Many states have recertification or relicensure rules that require educators to earn 100 to 200 professional development hours over a specified period of time. In my view, educator relicensure and recertification processes are a missed opportunity when it comes to ensuring that educators have access to the professional learning they want and need to help students succeed. Why? Here are several reasons.

  • Educators see little connection between these requirements and the challenges they face on a daily basis.
  • Educators receive little guidance about the choices or resources to support them in meeting this requirement. As a result, convenience and price heavily influence the decisions educators make.
  • Attendance is often the only criteria for educators to earn credits toward relicensure.

Too few states and districts have systems in place for awarding credit for the professional development educators value most: job-embedded, team-based, and collaborative learning ...

By Sharon P. Robinson, President and CEO, American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE)

News Flash: The interest of students and their opportunity to learn is not better or even well served by a strategy of constant and high demand of inexperienced teachers. Retention matters not just to teachers but, most critically, to students.

Recent studies showing that teacher effectiveness continues to develop over time reinforce this imperative to do right by our students. First, in a working paper completed last year for the National Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research, researchers at Duke University found that middle school teachers’ effect on student test scores as well as attendance rates improves over at least several years. A subsequent study out of Brown University found improvement in teacher effectiveness is indeed steepest in the early years in the classroom but continues for many more years, challenging the common perception that teacher quality is a fixed characteristic after just a couple of years of experience ...

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