Hot topics included
Low teacher morale and how to improve it
Attracting and retaining highly effective teachers
Teacher prep programs
Support (or lack of) for beginning teachers
How the lack of common planning time is effecting professional development
New teacher evaluation system
Closing the achievement gap
Too much focus on high stakes testing
Is the problem really not enough money or is it the way we spend it?
Teachers understanding budgets
One of the things that I learned is that this Commissioner LISTENS. He spent three hours listening to teachers share their ideas and challenges. He didn't get defensive, didn't offer excuses, but synthesized and went straight to solutions.
Commissioner Robinson with 2011 Florida Teacher of the Year Megan Allen.
The Commissioner suggested:
- I-Teach Florida which would be a series of promotional videos. Why did you decide to teach? Why do you stay? These videos would target youngsters who might consider the teaching profession, would remind teachers of why they went into this profession in the first place and would help the general populace understand the passion of teachers.
-Budget workshops for teachers, If teachers understood their county budgets, they might better understand how to make usable suggestions.
-The opportunity for teachers to design our own College of Education with the ability to put voice and power into teacher preparation.
We were introduced to many resources e.g.,Start with Success, Doing What Works and a new NING that will be available in March. Florida teachers should look for an invitation from Novachi the first of March and join a group on the NING. A NING is not a new idea. Chets teacher Melanie Holtsman hosted a NING with hundreds of international teachers for several years when they were free. It is a wonderful way to share information. Moving to the Common Core and common language across the state (and country) should make this even more targeted and meaningful. Kelly Seay, our teacher liaison, was also there to make sure that teachers knew about Just for Teachers. Just e-mail Kelly if you are not getting the e-mails which are full of information - and coupons!
I left the meeting - hopeful! I feel teacher moral is the lowest of my 25 years teaching in Florida, but to have a Commissioner sit with teachers (the US DOE was also in the building and the Commissioner was a little late because he was testifying on Capital Hill - it's not like we were the ONLY thing he had to do today!) and listen to the good, bad and ugly, was like a breath of fresh air. I wish every teacher that I know had been there. I think we all need a little positive jolt right now! We didn't solve all of the problems in our profession today but at least we opened a dialogue. It was the first step in having teachers have a voice at the table! Now that's a BIG step! We meet again in April, so stay tuned!