While I was traveling recently, we got some fantastic news. I mean the kind of news that makes you holler with excitement. Here’s the way the announcement came in:
The message was to my little sister Leslie and she immediately shared it with family and friends! I’m not sure how many of my family, friends, readers and others know what that message means so I want to spell it out. I also think that Thomas Friedman has it right in “That Used to be Us” — we can each make a difference with education, even if our difference is simply celebrating the hard work of others. So this is my celebration of great teachers like my sister (and I already celebrated quite a bit on Facebook). I encourage you to find things to celebrate too — feels so much better than bemoaning the crap that’s out there.
Leslie is now a member of a small group of educators who have continued to strive for improvements in education. She has studied her butt off, put together various curricula and projects and simply gone above and beyond — like doing Donors Choose projects to fund the cool things the school system doesn’t fund. She has her degrees — both bachelors and masters degrees thank you very much — and then beyond that, she did this great program to become certified on a national level!
Think about this…. there are only about 100,000 teachers nationally and only 20 of them in the Memphis City Schools that have her literacy certification. Needless to say, my sister stands out in a crowd for more than just our family distinctive laugh! LOL!
The Community She Teaches In
With all of that going on, people may think that Leslie is looking to be a principal or administrator. I mean, after all, that’s where most teachers head to make more money. But I think she enjoys teaching — just wishes the challenges weren’t so damn enormous at times!
See, she’s a teacher in the Memphis City Schools, a school system like many in the U.S. in that it has faced troubles, especially big financial ones. If that’s not enough to get your attention in a less than ideal community.
The most recent claim to fame for community where she teaches is that the high school made national headlines a little while back because 90 of the girls in a nearby high school were having babies. That was a new record that garnered a lot of attention, but I think most saw the headlines & talked about how horrible they are rather than do anything about it. She’s taught elementary school there several years. And she started troops for Brownies and Girl Scouts. So she’s trying to make the future better by showing kids in that community there are other options.
These kids are from homes that don’t necessarily have respectful relationships, may not have a plan for the future, may not understand how nature or other things work. And my sister is trying to change all of that. She’s not alone there are other great teachers out there and I won’t try to start citing them cause I know I’ll miss some, but I have to say, we need to all be a bit more thankful for the positive contributions they are making and encourage others to make such a great commitment.
Nationally Board Certified Teacher
In my bragging on my sis, I found out that some folks were like me and didn’t know much about the national boards, so I decided to do a little digging.
The National Board of Professional Teaching Standards was created in 1987 after a Carnegie Forum on Education and the Economy’s Task Force on Teaching as a Profession released A Nation Prepared: Teachers for the 21st Century. The organization is trying to raise the qualifications of teachers, help them understand What Teachers Should Know and Be Able to Do. That sort of explains what the board is all about.
In it, they talk about The Five Core Propositions as the basis for the knowledge, skills, dispositions and beliefs that characterize National Board Certified Teachers (NBCTs). Reading through this, I’ve got to say, I get jazzed about education! The following info is copyright protected by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards and they reserve all rights. I’m putting it here so you can understand how great board certification is.
Proposition 1: Teachers are Committed to Students and Their Learning
- NBCTs are dedicated to making knowledge accessible to all students. They believe all students can learn.
- They treat students equitably. They recognize the individual differences that distinguish their students from one another and they take account for these differences in their practice.
- NBCTs understand how students develop and learn.
- They respect the cultural and family differences students bring to their classroom.
- They are concerned with their students’ self-concept, their motivation and the effects of learning on peer relationships.
- NBCTs are also concerned with the development of character and civic responsibility.
Proposition 2: Teachers Know the Subjects They Teach and How to Teach Those Subjects to Students.
- NBCTs have mastery over the subject(s) they teach. They have a deep understanding of the history, structure and real-world applications of the subject.
- They have skill and experience in teaching it, and they are very familiar with the skills gaps and preconceptions students may bring to the subject.
- They are able to use diverse instructional strategies to teach for understanding.
Proposition 3: Teachers are Responsible for Managing and Monitoring Student Learning.
- NBCTs deliver effective instruction. They move fluently through a range of instructional techniques, keeping students motivated, engaged and focused.
- They know how to engage students to ensure a disciplined learning environment, and how to organize instruction to meet instructional goals.
- NBCTs know how to assess the progress of individual students as well as the class as a whole.
- They use multiple methods for measuring student growth and understanding, and they can clearly explain student performance to parents.
Proposition 4: Teachers Think Systematically about Their Practice and Learn from Experience.
- NBCTs model what it means to be an educated person – they read, they question, they create and they are willing to try new things.
- They are familiar with learning theories and instructional strategies and stay abreast of current issues in American education.
- They critically examine their practice on a regular basis to deepen knowledge, expand their repertoire of skills, and incorporate new findings into their practice.
Proposition 5: Teachers are Members of Learning Communities.
- NBCTs collaborate with others to improve student learning.
- They are leaders and actively know how to seek and build partnerships with community groups and businesses.
- They work with other professionals on instructional policy, curriculum development and staff development.
- They can evaluate school progress and the allocation of resources in order to meet state and local education objectives.
- They know how to work collaboratively with parents to engage them productively in the work of the school.
Reading those propositions and the points underneath them, I have to say that we need a lot more people who fit those descriptions! And we really need to celebrate the people who do — ie like my little sister!
An Easy Way You Can Support a Great Teacher
Leslie’s classroom is a high poverty class. Things like extra books can seem costly but may be the factor that reaches a kid that otherwise may not get engaged in school. You can help by joining me in funding Leslie’s Donor Choose project to buy a couple of Nooks for the class. Just think of how many books that can make available to the students! What’s really cool is you can then scan through other Donors Choose projects and find projects that you’d love to see happen. Gardening support, the arts, science projects or whatever! Pick classes near your home or further away. Teachers get great ideas together and you choose what to support.
To see other posts in the series of 30 days of daily blogging, just click on this image wherever you happen to come across it. Here’s a quick list of the posts so far — there is a little of this and a little of that in the series, just like there is in my blog at any time!