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We Hold These Truths...

Given the current state of education, it’s easy to understand the frustration teachers feel as they are stretched thin and given increasingly mixed messages.  Forced to “teach to the test” while still focusing on differentiating to meet the needs of individual learners. teachers today often find their jobs precariously tied to student test results and feel their instructional freedom slipping away.

These challenges can stack up and feel overwhelmingly discouraging, which is why a recent conversation in a Teacher Leaders Network discussion group was both timely and uplifting.  Bob Williams, Alaska’s 2009 state teacher of the year, commented “It feels unhealthy for me to become defined only in terms of negatives or things that I am against. I’d like to propose that we list up to three things that we support and are convinced will help improve our schools and our profession. ”

From here, the open question was put out to teachers: “What do we believe in?

I found it incredibly inspirational to read these responses. Some that stood out to me:

“Education should honor and prepare students for their own lives in the world of today and tomorrow—not mimic the past educational experiences of policymakers and other adult stakeholders.”

“The single most important thing a teacher can do is to ignite the fire of intellectual curiosity in children, encouraging them to continually ask, “Why?” “So what?” “Now what?” “What if?”"

“Children rise to meet our expectations. Children come to us believing in us, trusting we will teach them and help them grow. We must honor their trust and set the bar high for each and every one of them and ourselves.”

“Genuinely hearing, respecting, and incorporating student voices into schools is the single most important thing we can do to help them learn to be good citizens in a democracy… and to acquire other skills they will need for success in school and throughout life.”

“Learning is best when it’s absorbing and enjoyable, and that kind of learning sticks to brains. Learning is meant to be fun. Small children come to us in kindergarten, excited about learning to read, to draw, to add and subtract, to talk about their communities, to sing, to touch frogs, and to play games. We turn all of that natural enthusiasm and curiosity into “subjects.” Shame on us.”

“Our students need to be creative problem solvers. They need to be active collaborators with their peers. They need to be critical thinkers. They need to be challenged to do their very best, and what they can do will expand as their work is shared with peers, critiqued, refined, and reflected upon.”

“I believe in inspiring children at the earliest stages of their education to explore answers to their questions. As they seek answers, children learn to reflect analytically on the world around them… It is this experience that does not just lead them to answers but ignites a proactive energy and an eagerness to know more.”

As a teacher or parent, what do YOU believe in?  Please share your thoughts!

For excerpts from the original discussion, see the summary blog post by John Norton, co-founder and moderator of the Teacher Leaders Network.

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