Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Working for the Weekend (Loverboy)

March 5-12
    My goal while I am here working at the Dept. of Education in Trenton is to do something that has a positive and lasting impact for teachers and students.  I know I have an impact on my students every year, but how could I effect change on a larger level?  To that end, I have been spending much of my time here putting together a proposal for a NJ Teaching Ambassador Fellowship.  The idea happened because of the many conversations I had with teachers and policy makers, and the advent of the new RESPECT program in DC.  When I got to Trenton, I had meetings with many of the people in charge and heard the same things over and over again.  They want teacher input, transparency, and they want to improve the current education system.  The DOE is also finding that  delivering information to the teacher in a classroom has been difficult.  The reason is that first of all, the information is not trickling down through the ranks, the second is that the DOE doesn't speak "teacher".    Teachers, I was finding, were terrified of the impending changes to education, in large part because the information they had was only part of the story, if they had any information at all.  I also spoke to many award winning teachers within the state who lamented that there was not something else they could do along the career ladder that could provide an outlet for their leadership abilities without having to become administrators. 
      I did my research, and thought that the time was right for this program.  It is based on the federal model and I have been working closely with both the designer of the original program and the current director in DC. The purpose would be, in the beginning, to take 3-5 teachers and have them do a work exchange program where they would be based in Trenton for a year working with the policy makers and making sure that the teacher voice was heard.  Their job would then be to disseminate the information around the state and gather feedback from educators at forums and round-table discussions.  A win-win situation for both sides.  Here is the perfect opportunity to model collaboration, elevate the teaching profession, provide some leadership opportunities for educators, contribute to the idea of shared responsibility, and perhaps provide a window through which some understanding could take place. 

     Having the idea was one thing, researching and putting together the proposal, application, budget and all the other little things that are needed to get a program off the ground is entirely something else.  But here it is. It's been pitched, so now it is just a matter of seeing if it is received. 

In the meantime, I received a phone call from Senator Menendez telling me that I was being given the Evangelina Menendez Trailblazer Award, named after the Senator's late mother, in recognition of my work in education.  I was honored and humbled to receive such an award, especially for doing something that I love.  The ceremony was in Jersey City and was quite an evening to remember. 

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