In less than two weeks I will return to my roots, my happy place, a place feared by many and loved by few - the middle school classroom! I’ve been out of the classroom for the last three years and I am more than excited – and a little nervous – to get back in.
After ten years of teaching 5th – 8th graders in Los Angeles, Oakland, and the south Bronx I left the classroom for a one-year fellowship at the U.S. Department of Education (ED) in Washington, D.C. As a Teaching Ambassador Fellow during the 2011-2012 school year I – alongside 15 other teachers - provided a classroom teacher’s perspective, experience, and expertise to federal education policy makers. I spent the majority of my fellowship working on Middle Grades Reform with an incredible Senior Advisor to the Secretary on Secondary Schools, the one and only Greg Darnieder. As someone who believes strongly in teachers and students influencing policy my fellow fellows and I organized “ED Goes Back to School” where 50 ED senior officials and career staff had the opportunity to shadow a local teacher for a full or half day as a way to inform their work at the department. I’m proud to say that “ED Goes Back to School” has become an annual tradition at the Department and has even been expanded to include shadowing principals. As someone who believes strongly in the power of the arts, a colleague and I created “Teachers’ Lounge,” a theatrical performance written and performed by a group of local teachers to share the realities of classroom teaching with ED staff. As a National Board Certified Teacher (NBCT) I was fortunate to facilitate a panel discussion between NBCTs and Secretary Duncan at the White House. You can probably see why that year in D.C. was one of the most powerful of my life.
While I was sure that I’d return to the Bronx to teach after that fellowship year, my path took me in a different direction. That panel discussion at the White House led me to my next position as the Director of Educator Engagement at the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. For the last two years I have been fortunate to collaborate with incredible NBCTs and allies across the country working to advance teaching as a profession and embed National Board Certification across the career continuum. I had a number of responsibilities in this role and one I am most proud of was being part of a team that wrote and won a $15-million federal grant to increase the number of NBCTs in high need schools and provide opportunities and training for NBCTs in high need schools to serve in instructional leadership roles.
While I’ve loved the work I’ve done outside of schools over that last three years my heart has been yearning to get back to my roots, back to the place I see as most important in this journey towards educational and social equity in our country - the classroom. So, in less than two weeks I will do just that. On September 4, 2014 I’ll meet my newest group of 7th graders. Over the course of the year we’ll take a journey together to become better readers, writers, listeners, and speakers but more importantly to become collaborative, kind, and thoughtful scholars and activists ready and equipped to improve the world around us.
I’ve learned a ton of new skills over the last three years and I’m incredibly curious to see how they transfer to improved teaching and learning for my students. This blog will serve as a place to document the journey as I leave the policy world, return to my roots, and get back to the point – the classroom, my kids, our families, and the incredibly intellectual, social, emotional, justice-oriented, and crucial work we'll all do to create a more fair and just society.