I had a twinge of pride when I read about Secretary Duncan’s recent trip to New Haven, Connecticut to announce granting eight more states NCLB waivers. It had nothing to do with New Haven (never been there) or even the NCLB waivers. I was drawn by the conversation he had with teachers as part of his visit.
That’s because our abiding passion at VIVA Teachers is “elevating teacher voices.” Why? Because we believe–correction, we know–that public education would work better if classroom teachers were the drivers of both their work in the classroom and the systems that support that work. Those who work in the classroom have the frontline view. They know what’s needed to set up all of our public schools for success.
Our very first VIVA Teachers project, way back in 2010, resulted in a meeting with Duncan. Eight teachers who worked in classrooms from Seattle to New York met with him in his Washington DC headquarters personal conference room. The teachers spent 90 minutes with Duncan, the DOE teaching fellows and members of his staff.
Meeting with a Cabinet Secretary was awesome in and of itself. But equally thrilling has been seeing the teachers’ ideas turned into policy.
The national VIVA Teacher Leaders told the Secretary that teachers need better training (a sentiment that was repeated by the teachers with whom he met in New Haven). The department has since created the Presidential Teaching Fellows program, a $185 million program to give teaching students better training.
VIVA Teachers have had similar success in other venues, most notably Chicago. There, Chicago Public Schools CEO Jean-Cluade Brizard accepted the recommendation of VIVA Teacher Leaders to eliminate two school holidays — Columbus Day and Pulaski Day (know your Revolutionary War history?) — because the teachers said they need more days in school with their students.
Thanks to all the (extremely) busy classroom teachers who’ve taken time to join in a VIVA Teachers Idea Exchange. And congratulations. You’re changing the world!