Last Tuesday I was privileged to be with a dozen professionals – award-winning public school teachers from across the state – to conclude work on a project that began in May. Their charge was straightforward: design recommendations for strengthening the teaching profession in Oregon.
Some teach in elementary schools, others in middle or high school. Their subjects vary – science, math, history, special education. Coming from east and west of the Cascades, they assembled just four times over the summer. They had access to top-shelf research by Education First, and honed in early to the promising practices they wanted to explore. Then they dug into data, looked at innovations from across the nation and beyond, and deliberated about the areas most essential for ensuring Oregon is a great place to teach.
How could funding not be central to the conversation? They didn’t, however, choose to linger there for long. They drove to the heart of what their lived experience, substantiated by research, tells them is needed. Their recommendations will be released late-September by The Chalkboard Project, the convener that gave them carte blanch to select their agenda.
But back to Tuesday’s meeting. While Portland’s Chinatown was blanketed in late summer warmth, the Distinguished Educators Council toiled in a conference room. They polished their final set of recommendations, one by one. During closing debates they retained open-mindedness. They leaned into honesty despite discomfort as sensitive issues were laid on the table. And they steadfastly introduced clarity to the countless devils-in-the-details.
Minds and emotions were stretched to the very end. When all was said and done, they had imbued the report with discernment and boldness on behalf of all their classroom colleagues. And they had woven something special as a circle of teachers, earning one another’s respect and regard. What a shining example of collaboration and leadership among leaders.
Next up: exercising their united voice before state legislators and policy makers. We should all be eagerly watchful for what changes can come.