Monday, July 7, 2014

A Whole New World

In the past sixth months, my world as an educator has widened like the Grand Canyon.  I believe I am very knowledgeable in the field of deaf education and try to keep abreast of the latest research and effective educational practices.  I do what I can to serve my profession well and to be a voice and leader to the key people in the field: parents, students, teachers, interpreters, and others.  However, my field of vision has been very narrow.  Little did I know about the vast Teacher Leader Movement happening around the U.S.  That all changed this past January.  Yes, I got a taste of this movement while serving as the KY Elementary Teacher of the Year, but I had no idea the depth and breath that Teacher Voice was taking hold all around me.

In January, right before being invited to attend ECET2 (I wrote about attending this convening in "Don't Be Isolated"), I stumbled upon the website for CTQ (Center For Teaching Quality).  This website brings teacher leaders together from throughout the U.S. to engage in dialogue on various educational issues.  I have joined their CTQ-KY Collaboratory and have lurked and participated in some bold and innovative discussions.

While at ECET2, I learned about Hope Street Group and the Prichard Committee, two organizations promoting transformative educational policy with teachers' voices at the forefront.

I also learned how teachers are using Twitter to expand their PLN. Since January my PLN has expanded exponentially.  I am connected to almost 100 teachers and teaching organizations around the U.S on a daily basis.

  • I follow links to blog posts from many teachers on various topics.  
  • I follow links to education articles that my PLN has shared.  
  • I read Op-Ed pieces that teachers have written as a way to elevate their voice.  
  • I keep abreast of happenings at the Department of Education and the various organizations I follow (both deaf ed and non-deaf ed).
  • I learn about new Apps and other technology that I am eager to try with my students this fall.  
  • I hear about educational books about teacher leadership, differentiated instruction, UDL, and numerous other topics 
  • I live vicariously through teachers as they attend conferences.  For example, I was not able to attend this year Let's TALK conference but was able to follow along on Twitter as teachers shared photos, quotes, and other take-aways from the conference.  
  • I occasionally attend Twitter chats on Thursdays by following #kyedchat.  Leaders create a topic and pose questions for participants to answer.  There are a multitude of education-focused twitter chats happening weekly.
The list goes on and on.  Twitter has become my instant professional development.

My eye opening experiences don't end there.  Two weeks ago I had the honor of traveling to Seattle as a new member of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Teacher Advisory Council.  There I learned the true meaning of Teacher Voice and Teacher Leadership.  I learned how to be a stronger advocate for educational reform.  I discovered that there are teachers everywhere with innovative ideas, doing what they can for the sake of all students.  I left with an indescribable feeling: to feel valued and respected enough to be entrusted with the innovative initiatives of an incredible philanthropic organization that keeps itself grounded by Teacher Voice.  I hope to write more about this experience in a future post.

I recently discovered that there is a new movement called Teacher Powered Schools.  "[T]eacher teams have secured authority to design and run their own schools. They make the decisions on aspects of school such as curriculum, budget, selecting personnel, and more. In addition to full schools, teachers can run a department within a school or a program that spans several schools."  What an incredible concept.  Can you imagine what would happen if teachers of the deaf and hard-of-hearing at a school for the deaf or in a region of a state were able to do this?  They are the experts and true leaders in the field of deaf education.  Maybe then all DHH children will become college and career ready.

Needless to say, teachers should no longer be teaching and learning in a silo.  There are countless avenues for teachers to collaborate, innovate, and celebrate.  If I kept my blinders on and never clicked on the FaceBook post about CTQ that appeared in my News Feed last January,  I would have never discovered this vast world of Teacher Voice and TeacherLleadership that is running rampant all around me.

Join me in expanding my PLN by signing up for Twitter and following me @heidigasl.  I hope to one day have enough DHH teachers in KY and around the U.S. as part of my PLN to start our own Twitter chat.  It takes a Village! 

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