Saturday, November 20, 2010

Salute to Educators, American Education Week

It was American Education Week last week, I would like to recognize the hardwork of my colleagues in DCPS for encouraging, motivating, and inspiring our students to do their best to be successful in life. I also thank the WTU for spotlighting the importance of providing every child in America with a quality public education and the need for everyone to do his or her part in making public schools great.

With three other DC Public Schools educators: Beth Prince (Hearst ES), Christopher Bergfalk (HD Cooke ES) and Jeffrey McCauley (Shaw at Garnet Patterson MS), I was featured in the WTU Newsletter, "Salute to Educators", that was mailed to 4,000 members last week.

Here's what I shared:

1. Why did you decide to become active in the union?

I spent my college years at the University of the Philippines, the premiere state university in my country, where freedom of thought and expression was exercised which provided me with a complete armory for activism. My professors gave me the wisdom and the skills to learn the Socratic way, and the passion to stand up for what is right became an integral part of my words, thoughts and actions. The prospects are both exciting and frightening where I am now. Keeping body and soul together can be as formidable as any journey especially when the train where we are all in seems to be moving towards the wrong direction. There’s a battle being waged right now, It’s not about unions standing up for teachers; it’s about teachers standing up for themselves through their unions. There are so much things happening right now on the local and national level which lead to frustration, anger, and all that is harmful not only to the teachers but also to the children whose lives we continue to influence daily. After going through a long and meaningful introspection, I realized that working with the people who have the same mission has taught me to fully understand my role as a teacher leader. As I said earlier, "I realized that when I empower, support, encourage and inspire the teachers to do their best for the kids, I am impacting the lives of more than just the students in my classroom." While many people (mostly are not educators) attack the teachers unions, I strongly profess that I have become a better teacher and a stronger leader because of my teachers union, the WTU.

2. What do you see as the role of the union in education reform?

I see that our union is pushing for a real teacher evaluation system, and for the establishment of a due process system aligned to it. Times have changed (a lot) and I believe that public education has evolved since then. It is very timely that we have a new (and very controversial) teachers contract. I see that some of the current practices and norms in 21st century teaching and learning are embodied in the new WTU-DCPS teachers contract. I see that we are now thinking about how we should change our traditional practices to better reflect the tasks assigned to our schools, teachers and students today. I see that our union is pushing for the right tools, time and trust from our administrators that will allow the teachers to succeed which will help truly transform the public education system. And with trust we mean, collaboration, teachers treated as partners in reform, with a real voice. It is only when we can work together that we can create a stronger public education system.

3. What do you see as the most pressing problem facing teachers today?

The most pressing problem that I see facing DCPS teachers right now is the lack of involvement with our union. We need to understand that our union is only as good as its members. I do believe that we need to set higher expectations and higher standards for ourselves so we can inspire our students and encourage them to do what it takes to be successful in life. But we also need to make a strong decision to take control of our actions and not just to sit by and let others define effective teaching for us. I strongly believe that it is time for us to take action. We are the key players in the education arena and not just mere instruments in this education reform. We need to make our voice heard and let everyone know what matters most to our students that we, classroom teachers, better understand.

4. What 3 things do you think DCPS should focus on that would improve education in DCPS?

I firmly believe that the three R’s is integral in education. And by this I mean resources, reasonable class sizes, and respect.

First is resources; teachers need 21st century classroom resources to meet the needs of our 21st century learners.

Second is reasonable class sizes; research on student-teacher achievement ratio supports the significant educational value of lower class sizes.

Third and the most important is respect; teachers who work hard and go above and beyond the call of duty should be treated with respect and trust and is essential in attracting and retaining our talented educators.

5. When is one instance where you knew that you had the biggest impact on student achievement?

I am an accidental Special Educator, because it wasn’t my plan to be in this field. My childhood dream was to become a doctor. I was in medicine proper, in full scholarship, when I realized I was called for another profession. M exposure to Special Education at the Center for Developmental Intervention Foundation at the Philippine Children’s Medical Center has left me deeply encouraged to be with special children who are in need of time and affection. I realized that if a regular child yearns for attention from people, more so with special children. Unfortunately, most of them have been fed with a diet of leftovers- leftover love, patience, laughter, stories, kindness, energy and additional support. As a special education teacher I don’t look after people’s physical health but the child's mental health. I don’t dissect people’s brain but I open my students' minds in wonder. I don’t cut people’s hearts, rather, I touch their hearts. As a special education teacher I am able to save lives in a different way.

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