Around Nov. 4, I remember being absolutely frustrated logging onto social media. Not only was my Facebook bombarded with engagements and babies, but also with politics involving education and teachers. “Vote no on Amendment 3” or “Vote yes on Amendment 3: Hold our teachers accountable!” seemed to be the new hot meme to share. I wasn’t frustrated that people were sharing their belief with others; I was frustrated at the state’s attempt to solve a problem, which is deeply rooted in all sorts of other problems. No matter ones politic stance, it is obvious that people care about the product of our educational system. According to Pearson’s Index, America is 14th in the world in terms of education. According to NEA’s Education Report Card, Missouri is ranked 28th in education and receives a C+ overall. As an education major, I find this utterly disappointing. I understand the need for education reform and have a proposed solution after completing my Journey Grant.
Most education reform opportunities focus on extrinsically motivating teachers – normally through the use of money – to enhance student assessment. I propose a solution that focuses on enhancing teacher’s skills through the use of professional development that is extended from the district’s norms. This past year, I was able to attend an Educational Conference Series through the use of our Journey Grant. I attended four conferences: a local conference in KCMO, a state conference in Columbia, MO, a regional conference in Osage Beach, Mo., and a national conference in Los Angeles. During these conferences, I attended countless sessions with other educators that focused on making us better teachers. For example, a few things learned about were: incorporating movement in mathematics, integrating student’s unique cultures, and teaching with poverty in mind. I connected with teachers and educational gurus from across the country to decide what strategies are helping our student’s the most, and what we can do to continue to push them towards mastery. This opportunity not only gave me an advantage as pre-service teacher, but has also benefited me throughout my current student teaching experience. I continually find myself integrating key ideas from this conference series to enhance my instruction and student’s learning. Countless times while in L.A., current educators and administrators were impressed with Jewell’s commitment to continuing education outside of the classroom. I think that such a commitment to continued education should extend into our professional lives.
After returning and chatting with teachers within different districts, there is a common consensus. Teachers are given professional development opportunities within their own districts, but are not sponsored to attend outside conferences. School calendars have specific “in service” days which provide opportunities for growth and reflection. These days are fantastic, and after attending a few – I am very pleased with what I have learned, but I think education reform based on professional development could take it a step further. Rather than spending dollars on incentive pay based on students’ test scores, that money should be put towards sending teachers to outside professional development opportunities, like the Educational Conference Series. Attending conferences outside of the teacher’s home district allows for one to completely engross themselves in other’s practices. Education best practices are constantly changing. Allowing teachers to frequently learn about such practices allows for educators to be up to date and implement the best strategies to enhance students achievement. According to Learning Forward, “Teachers and administrators who routinely develop their own knowledge and skills model for students that learning is important and useful. Their ongoing development creates a culture of learning throughout the school and supports educator’s efforts to engage in student learning . . . As a result, the entire school is more focused and effective.”
My opportunity to attend the Educational Conference Series made me realize the importance of extended professional development for educators – myself included. I truly do believe that such opportunities for all educators could enhance student, state, and national achievement.