by Paul Toner
As an educator and union leader, the past eight years have been challenging on many fronts, and I look forward to bringing my experiences as a middle school social studies teacher and former local and state teacher’s union leader to NVS to help elevate the voice of frontline practitioners in the ongoing debates and discussions over the future of public education. As a nation, we have struggled through the great recession and have been forced to confront numerous international and domestic challenges. We live in a constantly changing world and we need to be prepared to lead change. Our public schools are the catalyst to bring about that change.
As educators we have been asked to make rapid changes in an effort to improve our public school systems. We work towards adopting and transitioning to new academic standards and assessments, creating new evaluation frameworks, using student data in new ways and experimenting with new technologies — all while trying to do the day to day work of teaching and learning. These demands for change are being made by parents, business leaders, government officials and policymakers in the name of preparing our students for life in our 21st century global society. This is an urgent and worthy goal but too often the demand for change comes without providing classroom educators, schools and districts with the adequate time, training or resources to do the work well. Even worse, the plans for implementing change are frequently developed without the voice of those closest to the students and the work– frontline educators.
This is why I am excited about my new role as president of New Voice Strategies. I believe that in order for our public schools to be successful in preparing our students for our increasingly knowledge based economy, we need to have frank and open dialogue among all stakeholders about the goals and expectations of our schools and the educators. But most importantly we need to hear from our frontline educators themselves. Our public education system must be prepared and supported to educate all of our students to the highest levels. They will need to be highly skilled, creative and critical thinkers, and active participants in our democratic institutions and communities.
As an organization, New Voice Strategies’ mission is to engage educators, parents, community groups, teacher unions, district and civic leaders in an open, unbiased dialogue to develop the best solutions and policies to move our schools and communities forward in a collaborative manner. Through our innovative VIVA Idea Exchange™ we are able to engage frontline stakeholders in positive problem solving. By providing an online open platform with trained facilitators, we provide the space for an open constructive dialogue among educators about how best to serve students and meet the challenges today and in the future.
Our goal is to remove the discussion from the polarizing debates in the headlines and blog posts and return the discussion to where it belongs, focused on students and led by educators. I hope you will join me in these future discussions.
Paul Toner serves as the president for New Voice Strategies