By Andrew Hawk
If there is one thing that school personnel can count on, it’s that change is on the horizon. Technological advances trickle into the classroom, instructional design theories rotate, and curriculum resources are regularly updated. Additionally, education reform is a regular topic in America as new politicians take office at the federal, state, and local levels.
Unfortunately, the majority of teachers I have worked with during my career in public education have been resistant to change. It seems as if most teachers would prefer to have things remain the way they were when these teachers graduated from college. Whether you are in favor of or against education reform, it is inevitable and necessary. As the world changes, education must adapt in order to prepare young people for adult life. I recommend that teachers stay up to date with the reforms that are being proposed, especially those reforms that are coming to fruition. Here are some tips and resources I hope you will find helpful.
Consider the Source
Always consider the source of your information. All people and entities view the world through a specific lens based on their experiences and agendas, and information about education reform is often spread through faculties by word of mouth. This can quickly turn accurate information into tall tales. If you hear something that sounds unbelievable, it probably is not completely accurate information.
Wait and See
Do not get upset about a reform until you have researched exactly how it will affect you and your job. Problems can vary from state to state. When reforms are made at the federal level, they sometimes have a direct effect only in certain places. This is because some states have already adopted the reform at the state level.
Forget the old adage, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” There is always room for improvement, even if something is not broken. Education reform takes time and it is the job of educational leaders to be proactive. Sometimes reforms are planned in anticipation of a problem that is just beginning to unfold.
Check Reliable Sources
Stay up to date with accurate information by regularly reading reliable sources. Here are a few important ones:
- Department of Education Websites. The first place I go for information about both state and federal reforms Department of Education website. I am also on my state superintendent’s email list and receive regular updates on what is being discussed. Many times, these sites also will include explanations about the motivations behind reforms.
- Professional Publications. I recommend that teachers buy subscriptions to one or more professional publications to keep up on new practices. These publications can be print or digital. I like The Journal of Effective Teaching and Teaching Tolerance, but look around for publications that are suited to your grade level, subject, and personal views.
- Professional Organizations. Not all professional organizations are traditional unions. In addition, not all professional organizations are expensive to join. A quick Internet search should reveal professional organizations in your state and also some that operate at the nationally. The one I belong to is not a formal union. It regularly sends out updates on what is happening with education reform via email. Sometimes the emails request that members email their state representatives in favor of or against upcoming reforms. For this reason, I highly recommend that you carefully review the beliefs of an organization prior to joining it. This can easily be accomplished by looking for the “About Us” tab on the organization’s website.
- School Board Meetings. I can hear the moans and groans even now. To the best of my knowledge, most teachers do not attend school board meetings unless they have a specific reason to be there. I know from personal experience that these meetings are not always the most exciting events. However, lots of useful information is shared at them. If you cannot find the motivation to attend a meeting, review the meeting minutes on your county’s website.
- Watchdog Websites. Numerous organizations have made websites dedicated to monitoring education reform. Many of these websites offer a fair and balanced interpretation of the motives behind and effectiveness of specific reforms. Here’s a great list of these websites. Many offer email newsletters, or you can follow them on Twitter.
Whether you choose to use these resources or do your own research, try to approach education reform with an open mind. Even if we disagree about reforms, teachers should acknowledge that everyone is working in what he or she believes is the best interest of America’s children.
Andrew Hawk has worked in public education for fourteen years, starting as a teaching assistant in a special education classroom. He has taught first, second, and fifth grades as a classroom teacher, and for the past three years, has worked as a resource room teacher, providing services for fourth and fifth graders. Working as a special education teacher has given him the opportunity to work with a variety of age groups and exceptionalities. In 2011, he earned his master’s degree in special education from Western Governor’s University. When Andrew is not preparing for school, he enjoys spending time with his wife and daughter.
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