Friday, July 25, 2014

"I Don't Do School in the Summer," Said No Teacher Ever

Right in the middle of summer, the Elevating and Celebrating Effective Teaching and Teachers - Montana (ECET2) conference kicked off in Billings. Who on earth wants to spend time in the summer doing school stuff? About 100 teachers did! This conference, put on by 2010 Montana Teacher of the Year Anne Keith, played up the positive: finding solutions, being part of the conversations that lift us rather than drag us down.

Teachers dance to "I Gotta Feeling" after the dinner talks.

After Anne asked me to speak during the dinner at the Northern Hotel, I initially wrote a speech about this very topic: teacher self-advocacy. It was long and dry. It was perfect thematically but would have bored everyone to death. Instead I decided to go for emotion. I talked about the hardest thing that's happened while I was a teacher, and I followed up with some "spectacular teacher fails" that I've tried to turn into learning experiences.

My talk was followed by Montana's First Teacher, Lt. Governor Angela McLean. She spoke about the importance of teachers in individual students' lives, including herself as a student. It was very important to have her speak at this event as she is such an inspirational example for kids (and teachers) across Montana to reach for the stars.

Linda Hassinger has been teaching for FIFTY YEARS. Inspiration!

The next day was filled with conference sessions and talks by Superintendent Denise Juneau and Katherine Bassett, director of the National Network of State Teachers of the Year. Here's the Billings Gazette story on the conference.

Katherine Bassett (NNSTOY) and I had the chance to connect at ECET2

Teacher leadership is a popular theme right now, from the U.S. Department of Education to conferences in Billings. I love this. Giving teachers the ability to move laterally, to influence their colleagues in new ways, and to reenergize themselves for their own classrooms is a new and promising model in education.

I would like to reinvent parts of our education system, notably the ways structure can (but currently may not) inspire teachers to change, grow, and move themselves. I would like to see how we can come together over finding solutions instead of just identifying problems. I'd like to work with community members as partners in enhancing our children's success rather than putting out fires and giving excuses. Teachers, I'd like to see us advance our profession in this way.

And there you have the short version of my original speech.

Sculpture from Indian Memorial at Little Bighorn Battlefield

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