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,
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
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
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.