Monday, June 22, 2009

2009 National Charter Schools Conference

The 9th Annual National Charter Schools Conference is being held here (right at this moment) in Washington DC from June 21-24, 2009. Keynote speakers include urban schools leaders: New York City Public Schools Chancellor Joel Klein and District of Columbia Public Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee. Additionally, President Barack Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan were invited to address the conference.

I went to engaging sessions that were mostly about Teacher Leadership and creating Professional Learning Communities. No bulky handouts anymore! Copies of all the powerpoint presentations were given to the participants in a CD, very innovative! Here's a brief summary of my favorite points from the four sessions that I have attended:

- Empowering Teachers to Affect Policy by Steven Hicks and Julie Shively

According to the presenters, who are both National Board Certified Teachers, "Teachers understand - better than anyone - the challenges and rewards of public education and the types of instructional and school improvement strategies that yield the greatest results for their students."

This session has revealed to me opportunities at the national, state, and local levels for teachers in developing policies that affect the classroom! I am grateful that I was given a chance at a national level to share with my colleagues my experiences as a teacher in DC Public Schools. As a citywide teacher leader, I learned a lot of strategies that I can use whenever I sit on the table with the education policy makers in my school district. The most important things that I will remember are these tips:

Tips for teachers in discussing education policy:

Prepare (Know the issue)

- Be ready to present your points succinctly. (30 seconds, 1 minute, 3 minutes)
- Know the opposition's points and be able to counter them.
- Maintain your enthusiasm and sincerity.
- Use a sense of humor and the ability to roll with the punches.
- Know the people you are talking to and their staff. (They can make or break opportunities to speak with their boss).

During the meeting:
- Address the person properly.
- Identify yourself immediately at each contact. have a business card handy.
- Refer to the topic you want to discuss early in the conversation.
- Use your own words.
- Be brief but courteous.
- Establish your own credentials - why are you an expert on this topic?
- If possible give the person something in writing to which they can refer later.
- If something is said off-the-record always respect that and keep it confidential.
- Follow up in writing, making sure to include your contact information.

- Don't begin your discussion with threatening language: "As a citizen..."
- Don't apologize for taking up their time. Just be brief to the point.
- Don't be arrogant, condescending, or threatening.
- Don't argue or back someone into a corner.
- Don't send copies of a form letter, unless you take the time to include a personal note.

- Teacher Leadership in a Learning Community (K-12) by Jay Westover
Equally important is fully understanding what a Professional Learning Community is. A PLC is a collaborative culture focused on results and learning comprised of independent teams...

- working toward the same goal
- through collective inquiry of student data
- and commitment to continous improvement
- to ensure all students learn
In this session, I have learned 5 simple steps in becoming a Professional Learning Community (PLC) that have been effective in helping teacher teams get started in the PLC process. What do we need to create a strong PLC? Here are the 5 Cs of a PLC (for me, it's easier to remember things using a mnemonic):
- Collaboration
- Common Curriculum
- Common Assessments
- Collective Intervention
- Confirmed Instructional Practices
Yesterday's sessions were very informative! Expert presenters were very innovative and knowledgeable about their topic. I left each room equipped with the knowledge that I need on how to engage in collaborative teamwork focused on results and learning; it has also given me the strategies, knowledge and skills to become a better teacher leader. Now I'm ready to roll!

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