"It's coming, people, be ready."
I looked up from my laptop, expecting to hear more. Unfortunately, no additional information followed, and as I looked around at the other teachers, no one seemed comfortable enough to speak up. We were all aware that the educational world was about to change. We also knew there were no clear answers, at least not yet.
The conversation that eventually followed echoed the sentiments I had been feeling throughout this year. As a teacher trying to perfect my practice for eight years, I have never spent so much time reflecting on my teaching pedagogy and the idea of change as I have this year. In examining new literacies, prompted by technology and the types of students maturing alongside them, it is more apparent than ever that education needs to adapt to best meet the needs of today's students. From what I've experienced, it seems that most teachers are with me on that viewpoint. In fact, all teachers are entering a time of change. Unfortunately, it isn't just this challenge teachers must overcome. The politics facing educators today is enough by itself to paralyze some. Add onto that the many questions surrounding budget cuts, new standards, and the way teacher performance may soon be evaluated, it's no wonder that change is a scary notion for us.
I packed my bags and headed to the Empire State Writing Project Network's Summer Leadership Institute. Our discussion focused on the Common Core Standards, an emerging set of national teaching criteria that will soon replace our current New York State standards. I attended the Leadership Institute to learn more about Common Core Standards as well as contribute to an important dialogue with other National Writing Project fellows across New York State.
The truth is, all 21 teachers seated around the meeting room during this conference came from a place of apprehension. Much of our conversation centered on a feeling of emotional batterment. With so many devastating job cuts and programming changes, teachers felt that embarking on any sort of change would lead to more contention. In looking at the new Common Core Standards, we wanted to feel encouraged by what all of this would mean for our students. As Writing Project fellows, we agreed that a boost in the area of literacy in all disciplines could only benefit student learning. Unfortunately, we had a difficult time feeling excited at this venture. I'm happy to say that eventually we were able to lift each other's spirits the longer we worked together as a team.
Many teachers understand what it feels like not to have job security. Regardless of this danger, I am first and foremost a teacher, and until my classroom door is locked from me, I will continue to do what's best for my students. In addition, I find myself renewed by my participation with the Writing Project, whose sole mission is to improve writing and learning for all types of students through the collaboration of dedicated teachers. That motive, despite the politics surrounding education, has not changed for the Writing Project, which inspires me to move forward and continue to grow as an educator.
For all those teachers out there, I encourage you to move forward as well and to keep in mind the statement I heard at the Leadership Institute. Change is rolling powerfully into our lives, and I for one can't wait to see what all of us are capable of accomplishing for our students as we follow the tide with it.
Lisa M. Fanaro, a high school English teacher, talks about challengers in her profession, in light of new standards.