Autonomous Teamwork and the Common Core

By Wade Sutton

“We live in a world that’s increasingly social, interdependent and transparent….the most innovative among us are breaking away from traditional structures to be more flexible, more collaborative and nurturing.” – John Gerzema, author of The Athena Doctrine at TedxWomen Talk 2013.

Imagine your child’s day at school: In History they read and examine forms of government, the next period he or she plays soccer after reading and discussing an article on the qualities of leadership and teamwork, in Environmental Science the class examines the needs of a balanced ecosystem and reads an essay on current issues and later continues to build a terrarium in shop. At the same time in English your son or daughter is reading The Lord of the Flies and discussing Democracy and Fascism. It all fits together and reinforces itself. In this imaginary school, each teacher is autonomous and expert yet nurtures the learning experienced by the students throughout their day. Imagine autonomous teamwork.

Traveling to MSNBC’s Teacher Town Hall and Common Core Teaching Institute in New York last October gave me the opportunity to revise a lot of what I thought I knew about Minnesota’s transition to the Common Core Literacy Standards. I like these standards, however, the basic truth remains that educational improvements (including the Common Core) must come from within a school where staff, students and parents work together. Mutual trust and teamwork is essential.

Of course we at Indus can always improve, and trust is built over time. But autonomous teamwork among teachers is what makes good education become great. In the 21st century, schools must be “flexible” and “collaborative.” Good leadership nurtures and encourages this, and, if it is the common practice, your school is serving you. Your son or daughter will benefit. When students, parents, educators, and administration commonly rely on each other’s strengths we become the real core of education.

Autonomous collaboration makes education work. Literacy standards begin at home and great student achievement is the result of school staff and parents working together. This has struck me consistently in my conversations with educators whom I respect from across the country working in schools I admire. As an educator at Indus School who values an extended team, I am not alone in feeling the desire for more parental involvement. This is not a criticism; it is a request that parents accept our respect for what they do. Parenting is difficult and a good school seeks involvement in the learning community. Parents are the foundation for successful literacy. I trust parents more than the Common Core because that trust is key to a successful education.

The Common Core itself will not raise standards of education, but excellent educators, trusted and trained, will. As Amanda Ripley, author of The Smartest Kids in the World: And How They Got That Way, said at MSNBC’s Teacher Town Hall last October, “Teachers need training; teachers need respect; teachers need autonomy.” As an educator, every day I consider how I am working in unity with my peers. The responsibility that comes with professional trust within a school can drive me toward high standards far more than any directive could. Over the years I have experienced how a professional team of autonomous educators can leverage basic education and transform it together to meet literacy needs throughout the day. While literacy begins at home, the Common Core at least recognizes that reading is not isolated in English class but is taught “in history/social studies, science, and technical subjects.” A hallmark of a school implementing Common Core literacy well is a team that works together. Classes are not islands and teachers are not overwhelmed with classroom sizes so unmanageable that they are not able to be flexible according to the needs of your son or daughter.

As a parent can we evaluate whether teaching is done as a community? I believe yes. You can judge your child’s school by how well they listen to you and by how much time is created for educators to educate themselves, improve and work together. One of the exemplar educators at the MSNBC Common Core Workshop confided in me that her school does not provide time to work together. It is a major failure in her district while at the same time it is necessary to meet the literacy standards. At your next parent/teacher meeting ask your teacher what the atmosphere is like for them: Is there an atmosphere of professional trust? How do they collaborate with other subjects? How is administration nurturing and valuing time to collaborate among professionals? If your child’s school organization provides time for educators to meet, plan and teach together then they are on the right track and ready to work for you, the parent. If it does not, then speak to its leaders to encourage them.

Find out how often teachers meet to match the reading and exploration in their class with another: At Indus we keep learning. Our science teacher and FACS teacher collaborate on the topics of food safety and sanitation and scientific principles related to biology and chemistry. Best of all, they work together on the school garden project. We have created a working timeline in our hallway where students from all grades post responses to informational texts and topics in their classrooms. Our history teacher has recruited me to grade the essays on her World and American History tests according to what students learn in English and I organize my subject matter according to her timeline to streamline the literacy and student learning. In science students practice similar methods for reading and understanding texts as in other classrooms to meet Common Core Literacy standards. Our art teacher critiqued the rough drafts of the World Literature projects for visual communication and I use art to teach text interpretation. She is also having the seventh and eighth grade illustrate their own short stories for publication. And the ninth grade class at Indus is mentoring the 5th grade in composition which helps both grades. As a parent I like what I see. As a teacher I have learned that this works and hope to keep improving together.

Because autonomous education within a school team should be commonplace.

wadeWade Sutton teaches 7-12 grade English at Indus School in Birchdale, Minn. He was a member of the VIVA Minnesota Teachers Writing Collaborative that produced the report 360 Degree Leadership: Evaluating Minnesota Principals.

 

View the original postings on Wade’s blog, ProspectiveEducation, and The Journal 

International Falls Journal: Uncovering Common Core

VIVA-EdNation

VIVA Teachers at Education Nation 2013 (from left to right): Glenn Morehouse Olson, Wade Sutton, Mark Anderson, Katie Morosky, and Freeda Pirillis

Wade Sutton (VIVA Minnesota I) was one of five VIVA Teachers to attend Education Nation 2013 in New York City in October. He is writing a series of commentaries for his local paper, International Falls Journal. The first one is called Uncovering Common Core (published Nov. 9, 2013), and looks at how Wade’s opinion about Common Core has changed.

He writes:

Attending the 2013 MSNBC’s Education Nation in New York shifted me from “unconvinced” to partial supporter of the Common Core. It is an honor to be one of the few rural educators to have sat with the architects of educational policy, and parents are usually left out of the conversation completely. As an educator at Indus School, I do not think this is right; after all, this is not only my ninth year serving parents by teaching their children, but I also am invested as a parent. The difference is that I have been given the opportunity to have a voice. When you speak directly to the minds behind the national standards there is a lot to respect.

Go to the Journal website to read the full article.

Wade Sutton teaches 7-12 grade English at Indus School in Birchdale, Minn. He was a member of the VIVA Minnesota Teachers Writing Collaborative that produced the report 360 Degree Leadership: Evaluating Minnesota Principals.

A Shift Towards Trust: Voices, Ideas, Vision, Action

 By Wade Sutton, Glenn Morehouse Olson & Freeda Pirillis

“If the person you are talking to doesn’t appear to be listening, be patient. It may simply be that he has a small piece of fluff in his ear.”

- A.A. Milne, Winnie the Pooh

From the center of the fevered storm to restructure education, a small voice speaks. It has always been there. It is still there. We might miss it for the crowd surrounding our institutions of learning. It is the voice of those working within the building…the voice of educators.

It is popular for policy makers to appear to be listening. While the power for change does not sit in the hands of the experienced educational professionals, the words of Dr. Ralph Nichols from the University of Minnesota offer a solution: “The best way to appear to be listening is to listen.” However, many teachers, worn out from raising their voices against educational doctrine, accept their minor role in policy. They endure and teach. Often their growing skepticism results in simply giving up on finding their own voice through the noise.

VIVA: Elevating Authentic Teacher Voice for Impact and Activism

In 2010, a new organization entered the throng to clear the clouds of obscuring politics. It seeks to trust to educators to answer the foundational questions we need to ask about education. We talk to doctors about health. We talk to lawyers about justice. But we talk to politicians about education. With patience, the conversation shifts toward trusting those who live education.

VIVA is a project of New Voice Strategies, a national nonprofit that operates online peer collaborations for teachers. They call these teacher-to-teacher conversations a VIVA Idea Exchange. ™ We have each participated in at least one of the 14 VIVA Idea Exchanges that have occurred since VIVA launched in late 2010. The innovation of these VIVA Idea Exchanges nails real solutions onto the doors of education departments across America.

VIVA arrived at a time when the “assessment era” laid bare the way policy has direct impact on our teaching practices, even if not a single classroom teacher is involved in crafting that policy. It is part of a small collection of nonprofit organizations and initiatives to give classroom teachers new avenues into broader policy debates in their districts and across their states. Together, these groups are opening up a new national dialogue between teachers and between teachers and policy makers about the broader education policies that reflect our expectations of public schools. To us, this phenomenon is both long overdue and a necessity.

Asking Teachers, Building Professional Collaborations

We are three teachers from different locations, different setting, different grades and different training.  VIVA connected us to hundreds of teachers in a problem-solving collaboration on a policy issue that we see as vital to our profession, it connected us to each other, creating a community of like-minded teachers who want our voices to be part of broader education policy questions but have no interest in leaving our classrooms and it connected our ideas to senior policy makers who can make real and lasting change.

Not only did each teacher present a report directly to policy makers, but VIVA became the vehicle for teacher voice to stretch beyond the walls of their classroom. From attending the Department of Education’s Respect Conference in Washington, D.C. to NBC’s Education Nation in New York, voices within the teaching profession continue to engage with the policies that affect educators nationwide.

VIVA Teacher Wade Sutton, 7-12th Grade English, Indus School, Birchdale, Minn.

Teaching in a rural Minnesota district bordering Canada can be isolating. Participation in VIVA’s Idea Exchange removed the innate barriers this location placed on my professional experience. Although I had taught under five administrators in seven years, I had no expectations of finding a platform to address principal competence. I had never been heard before. Schools maintain a culture not about listening and innovating, but structure themselves with division: between teachers and administrators, between disciplines, between public and charter, between rural, suburban and urban. While I thought voicing my professional conclusions about creating great principals would go unheard, I was wrong. The VIVA experience changed my perspective.

VIVA Teacher Glenn Morehouse Olson, 9-12th Grade, St. Francis, Minn.

When I first logged on to participate in the VIVA Minnesota Idea Exchange, I was not sure what to expect. As a journalism, theater and language arts teacher, I don’t have a lot of extra time between publications, productions and grading, but I cared enough about the idea of legislation regarding principal evaluation that I put in my two cents. One thing that struck me about this Idea Exchange was the diversity of experiences teachers expressed. It was hard to imagine how a rural teacher in a 7-12 school could relate to an elementary teacher from Minneapolis with a minimum of five different languages in one classroom. But what I found was an online community of teachers who were passionate about similar issues, and were able, with the help of a moderator, to discuss their ideas with a level of respect for one another.

VIVA Teacher Freeda Pirillis, First Grade, Chicago, Ill.

Isolated in one of more than 400 schools in the third largest urban school district, I am one voice drowned out by the noise and confusion of a system weighted down by turnover, misguided principles, and unprofessional practices. The VIVA Idea Exchange represented an opportunity to elevate my voice and those of teachers like me who rarely are included in discussion shaping policy in education. I had never heard of New Voice Strategies, participated in an Idea Exchange, nor been asked how educational policy could be changed to improve the quality of teaching and learning conditions in my classroom.  Participating in the Writing Collaborative with five teachers nationwide shifted my perspective from one teacher in a classroom, isolated from others, to a teacher with a voice, representing many others at the district, state and national level. Being part of the VIVA National Task Force, meeting with U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, and jointly discussing solution-oriented recommendations on the major issues facing the nation’s education system demonstrated it was possible to ignite systematic change with one meeting.

The Idea Exchange Process: A Conversation Begins

Using a central question, the VIVA Idea Exchange connects teachers with a policy maker, creating an incentive for participation. After the weeks of the open discussion, where educators across a specified geography speak from their experience and offer solutions, VIVA forms a writing collaborative from participants. These thought leaders distill the ideas and solutions into actionable recommendations for policy and deliver their report to a public policy official. VIVA’s first Idea Exchange, asking teachers for new ideas to strengthen federal teacher professional development policy, culminated in an in-person meeting between eight classroom teachers and Secretary Duncan and his staff. Their proposals can be found in elements of the department’s teacher effectiveness initiatives, including the Presidential Teaching Fellows program.

Since this first success, VIVA has engaged more than 5,000 teachers in one or more of the 13 collaborative, solution-oriented discussions resulting in actionable recommendations for policy makers. At the state level, New York teachers tackled the issue of teacher evaluation, Chicago teachers delivered a framework for restructuring the longer school day, Minnesota teachers developed recommendations for legislatively mandated principal and teacher evaluations, and Arizona charter school teachers laid the groundwork for the successful transition and implementation of the Common Core State Standards. (To access any of the VIVA Idea Exchange reports, visitwww.vivateachers.org.)

Impacting Policy: One Idea Exchange at a Time

Often, the impact of teacher voice is unclear to educators, therefore deepening the skepticism teachers feel about participating in discussions on educational policy. Amongst all the noise created in the media on what teachers need, want, or demand that is deemed fair, VIVA has worked to sift through the noise to identify actionable solutions and immediate change. VIVA has also strived to identify the impact on educational policy following an Idea Exchange and the delivery of a report to a public official. As educators, we look for the evidence of growth in our students, chart the progressions, gather the data, and synthesize the results. Similarly, with each Idea Exchange, VIVA has identified how teacher voice has shaped policy in the affected districts and states.

Wade Sutton

Since participating in the VIVA Idea Exchange, teaching in rural Minnesota is more relevant than ever. The educational event horizon expands the world every time a teacher is given a voice. While my students are the center of my career, it is encouraging that my experience has reached beyond my local community. From the Respect Conference in D.C. to Indus School in Birchdale, Minn., from NBC’s Education Nation in New York to the students in my classroom, I know that an educator’s professional voice needs to be heard. The health of our schools requires that more educators speak and that policymakers listen.

Freeda Pirillis

As a VIVA Teacher, I actively seek opportunities to elevate authentic teacher voice at all levels of my work. Serving as an Instructional Leader in my school building, a Common Core unit developer at the local level, attending NBC’s Education Nation Summit in New York in 2012 and 2013, and the U.S. Department of Education’s Respect Conference in Washington, D.C. have allowed me to stretch my thinking beyond the confines of my classroom, to collaborate with educators who share a vision: systematic change for teachers by teachers. I believe VIVA is the vehicle by which that can be achieved.

Glenn Morehouse Olson

In short, I was empowered by my first experience with VIVA. Since that time, I have participated in the Respect conference in Washington, D.C., blogged, written an article for MN Educator encouraging other educators to share their voices, and presented information to my local union. This summer, I was on a panel about bringing teacher voice to the table at the Learning Forward Conference in Minneapolis, with Education Researcher Ellen Sherratt and VIVA founder Elizabeth Evans. That led to Sherratt recommending me to producers at Education Nation, which resulted in my participation as a teacher panelist. Through these experiences, I have met and collaborated with people I would never have otherwise known and who, though geographically separated, I have come to consider colleagues in this great profession. As a journalism and theater teacher, I have always understood the power of the written and spoken word. As a VIVA Teacher, I have been able to put those skills to new use and actually connect with an audience who might not only dare to listen, but who has the power to take my voice, ideas and visions to a new level of action.

VIVA’s Place at the Table

With a growing number of teacher advocacy groups claiming to be the answer to education’s problems and represent authentic teacher voice, VIVA has something new to offer. Educators who have participated in the Idea Exchanges agree the difference lies in the process. VIVA addresses a central question and maintains short timelines with specific deadlines. Every Idea Exchange results in a solution-oriented, actionable list of recommendations, and a seat at the table with the people who shape educational policy.

VOICE “I hear and I forget.” IDEAS & VISION “I see and I remember.” ACTION “I do and I understand.” – Confucius, (551–479 BCE)

Wade, Freeda and Glenn collaborated to summarize their VIVA experience for the article “Educators Speak Out: Organizations offer teachers new avenues for influencing education policy” that appeared in the July/August edition of Harvard Education Letter

Wade Sutton profile

freeda_300

Glenn Morehouse Olson

 

The Two-Front War on Education

Lesley goes to Education Nation

The War for Education is being fought on two fronts – in legislative chambers and the classroom– and our students are the casualties. It doesn’t have to be that way.

Even at an event that should have been aimed at solutions, the Teacher Town Hall at NBC’s Education Nation, wasn’t. The topics this year were teacher evaluation, common core and rigorous testing. As I sat there listening, the passionate teachers in the room stood up to lament their frustrations and received emotional support from the crowd in the form of applause, nodding heads, and fervent outcries in agreement.

In retrospect, if the point of the day was to educate the viewing audience about what frustrates teachers, then the day was a success. If the purpose was to brainstorm new ways to combat challenges in education, then as the kids would say, “Epic Fail.”

As I sat there listening, I was struck that I have heard all of this before in the teachers’ lounge and on the VIVA platform. I was there to hear something new. I wanted these teachers to realize the power of their platform and share their ideas for making education better.

The event ended before I got a chance to speak. If I had, I would have pointed out that a poll showed that 71% of the public already trusts teachers. I would have asked: Why, then, are we investing so much energy in teacher evaluations and testing to prove to the public that teachers
are doing their job? I would have challenged the teachers in the room to pose real solutions not just keep lamenting the problems we face, such as:

  • Politicians attempt to make legislative decisions based on the advice of researchers and constituents who have an opinion about education.
  • Then teachers have to figure out how to continue delivering high quality education while meeting the requirements of the new mandates. Even if these laws go away (the desire of many educators), they would just be replaced with new ones.
  • The politicians must prove to the American public that the policies are working so they require more and more data as “proof.”
  • Teachers feel more and more overwhelmed by policies that yield them little control but require much of their energy.

Since the beginning of the school year, I have sat in meetings from Michigan to New York – both formal and informal; I’m hearing a consistent plea from my colleagues. How can I make this work? Where do I find the time? How can I continue doing what is right for kids although it is not tested?

Here’s my solution – a teacher Town Hall meeting with a panel of experts in TEACHING (unlike the soon-to-be-first-year teacher who was featured on NBC’s Teacher Town Hall). Imagine the rich discussion about what teachers can control facilitated by the likes of Wormeli, Danielson, Ravitch, Rice and Wong (just to name a few).

By shining a spotlight on the creative solutions that teachers – the real experts – use to deal with the mandates of new laws and the dynamics of a changing society, we will elevate teachers to be the experts in their profession. We can show the public how teachers have come to deal with problems that the general public and lawmakers never even realized schools face. For example, did you know that simply changing the way a teacher passes out materials can yield two extra weeks of instructional time per school year? That is a process teachers can control which will give them back valuable instructional time now taken away by standardized testing.

A meaningful Town Hall would spotlight the ingenuity of teachers instead of continuing to paint the profession as a bunch of whiny people who complain about everything.

It doesn’t matter whether the teacher is inner city or rural. We all have to cope with poverty, parents who are not involved (or over involved), a litany of legislation, too few resources and too many demands.

Teachers need to use vehicles such as VIVA to provide meaningful solutions while spotlighting the challenges legislation has created (thus showing people who write policy how their decisions have complicated – and arguably hampered – student achievement). That’s how teachers can provide policy makers with ideas for laws that would improve teachers’ lives and, therefore, increase student achievement.

Lesley Hagelgans teaches Language Arts at Marshall Middle School in Marshall, Michigan. She was a member of the National VIVA Task Force.

Shouldn’t all teachers be on the same side?

By Freeda Pirillis

So often, teachers are asked to share their opinions on what’s broken in education and what needs fixing. But who is asking the questions and leading the conversation, who is listening, and who ultimately makes the decisions that impact the daily lives of teachers and students? Within those answers lies the disconnect between teacher input and true teacher voice.

It seems teachers can find vehicles to engage in conversations on educational issues, evident in the education blogs online, the teaching associations that have flourished in the last 10 years, developing fellowships and hand selecting educators to promote their missions in the name of teacher voice. What is absent generally is the opportunity that VIVA Teachers offers for teachers to engage in solution-driven dialogue with their teaching colleagues, emphasizing visible, systemic change for teachers, by teachers.

This absence in true dialogue made way for a lot of noise and confusion in at the two-hour Education Nation Teacher Town Hall, hosted by Brian Williams and NBC Studios at the New York Public Library on Sept. 23, 2012.

A Platform for Teachers

I headed to the town hall hoping to hear from a multitude of teachers that truly represented the teaching force in the United States. I believed the experience would bring me closer to the colleagues I have in the other school districts, grade levels, and content areas.

When I arrived, I was greeted by a woman who wanted to know who I was, whom I was affiliated with, and what the VIVA Project was? Did I represent the AFT? Was I a teacher? Whose side was I on? Those questions seemed to suggest a divide between the groups. I have always believed teachers, regardless of teaching context, were on the same side, working towards a common goal, and we all had a shared interest in creating equitable learning conditions for our students and teaching conditions for each other. Could I be wrong?

Teacher Voice: A Sampling?

As a VIVA Teacher Leader, I understood why I was in the room, but quickly learned there was one section of teachers who were Teachers of the Year, teachers from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, several individuals I recognized from my time at the Department of Education, and a large group from the American Federation of Teachers (AFT).

I no longer believed true, balanced teacher voice was being represented in this distinguished group of educators and union employees who now had the microphone and the platform to make their voice heard.

Transparently Divided

Throughout the discussion, there seemed to be a clear divide between the public and charter teachers. Several teachers stood up to cheer on their charter school, the work they do, how much more they go above and beyond public school teachers; the room quickly devolved to a shouting match. Union and non-union teachers argued over the level of commitment to their job, to their school, and ultimately, to their students, based on the length of their school day and how deep they dig into their pockets to provide supplies to their students.

I was shocked to see such divisions in teachers who share such common ground.

The Issues: A Mile Wide and an Inch Deep

The show began with the topic of teacher preparation, which we looked at closely in our VIVA National Report, Voices from the Classroom. Our ideas seemed to resonate with the teachers at Education Nation who agreed that teachers need hands-on experience in the classroom prior to completion of their coursework and they need ongoing support from master teachers and/or mentors in their first three years of teaching. But teacher training was just one small part of the two-hour discussion.

Throughout, Williams shifted from topic to topic, inviting audience commentary on the effects of poverty on school systems, the shift to Common Core, the role of parents, providing wraparound services…each topic deserving a two-hour time slot on its own.

While I appreciated the role of the town hall to bring teacher voice to the table on each of these topics, the show did offer the solution-oriented nature of a VIVA Idea Exchange. In my opinion, the VIVA Teachers Idea Exchange platform offers real solutions, concrete examples of what is and is not working in schools across the country. The solutions are centered on the contexts with which teachers work, within the state and local mandates of their schools. VIVA is able to accomplish what I believe Education Nation’s Teacher Town Hall intended to represent in a two-hour segment: teacher voice and teacher activism. However, it fell short and I left feeling uninspired by my colleagues from across the United States.

The Take Away

My experience at Education Nation reinforced the validity of VIVA’s mission to elevate Authentic teacher voice. While I believe the Education Nation Summit provides a space for educators to come to the table and discuss a range of issues, I found little in the way of solutions and strongly believe that is what sets VIVA apart from the rest.

As a nation, we have a long road to travel on the path to reform and while I believe we have a common goal–our students–we are transparently divided and, therefore, stuck.

Freeda Pirillis was a member of the team that wrote the first VIVA report, Voices from the Classroom.

NBC Teacher Town Hall, a Meeting of Convergent Volume

 by Wade Sutton

“…And thus the Native hue of Resolution

Is sicklied o’er, with the pale cast of Thought

And enterprises of great pitch and moment,

With this regard their Currents turn awry,

And lose the name of Action.”

- Hamlet (Act III, Scene 1)

You would expect a national Teacher Town Hall to ask for change and action. You would think it would encourage divergent thinking. You would be wrong.

If MSNBC’s Education Nation had been honed to actually get 300 teachers to talk substance and seek resolution, here is the script I would have handed to Brian Williams:

Is it the place of the public school system to provide “wraparound services” that include medical care and breakfast? How does this really serve parents? Does it take away from the mission of schools? Are we creating dependence by filling these voids? Discuss.

Will structuring our teaching to a Common Core drive us further into a box and force us to teach to a test? What are other options that keep power at the state level? Discuss.

Why are universities failing to train educators fully? What needs to change? Should teachers only graduate and be licensed after at least three years’ experience in the classroom? Discuss.

Only master teachers with at least 10 years classroom experience should be allowed to begin an administrative degree program. How can we narrow the field to only accept the best as our instructional leaders? Discuss.

How does nurturing the culture of antagonism between teachers’ unions and administration harm our school system and our students? How can this vicious cycle be stopped? Discuss.

Why do teachers see unions as the strongest advocates for education instead of parents? Parents are the strongest advocates for their children, why the disconnect? Discuss.

But these questions demand time. These questions require careful thought and want divergent thinking. These questions depend on quiet contemplation and creativity. None of these powerful, progressive skills were in evidence at Education Nation. Instead, volume ruled the day.

The Pale Cast of Thought

Sitting in front of me were four teachers I thought cloned from one another. They exemplified the tone in the room: filled with what Yeats would describe as “passionate intensity,” the loudest and worst of the consensus, sadly more loyal to their union than to the art of education. They yelled and booed and cheered, entitled to be heard. One spoke to the camera and refused to stop. She solved nothing with her volume. The tone from the audience was not to hear and discuss, it was to display a unified direction. And to shout down dissent with “sound and fury signifying nothing” near to a solution. Good educators know that the loudest may not be the most dynamic. Their filibuster flares quickly and dies while we crave the silent solutions and strength that is caste in a slow hot fire.

And Lose the Name of Action?

This is why I walked away inspired to act with a consistent, powerful force in my own community to inspire change at the local level. I hope in the future that the national stage will mature to seek real solutions and next year I look forward to representing rural schools again. It is a game with a tone that limits our national dialogue on education. This must change. Progress cannot remain pressed aside in comfortable silence. Although quiet solutions were diminished and a real exchange was lost in the tempest, I am encouraged. It will be your unnoticed educator, the quiet and steady servant to parents, who will lead to change and actionable ideas.

Wade Sutton teaches 7-12 grade English at Indus School in Birchdale, Minnesota. He has taught in private and in public school and was a member of the VIVA Minnesota Teachers Writing Collaborative that produced the report called 360 Degree Leadership: Evaluating Minnesota Principals.