Saturday, July 26, 2014

New School Year Commitments

Last month I had the honor and privilege of participating in the 2014-2016 Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Teacher Advisory Council convening in Seattle.  During my stay there, I learned about the various educational initiatives of the Gates Foundation whose goal is to make all students college and career ready.  What was continually emphasized was that teachers' voices matter; teachers help the Gates Foundation stay grounded in what they do.  All the master teachers in attendance were valued and held in the highest regard.  It felt like a week-long elevation and celebration of teachers. Simultaneously, our opinions on education reform and advocacy were embraced.  We were brought into the trusted inner circle of the Gates Foundation.  No words can express how that feels.

I absolutely love teaching; there is no better career in the world.  Where else can you find joy in watching a 3 year old deaf-blind child finally understand that the sign you have been trying to teach her means "more" or celebrate with a hard of hearing high school junior, that you have known since he was in the first grade, as he is accepted into the National Honor Society?  Only a teacher can experience these precious moments every day and know he/she has made an impact in a child's life.

As I reflect on my experience at the Gates TAC convening and my love of teaching, I begin to think about what my next steps are as an educator and a leader.  How can I take what I learned from the convening and from my reflections on the book Turning the Tide: Making Life Better for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Schoolchildren to make me a better educator and leader? How do I grow to collaborate with others to ensure that all students who are deaf and hard of hearing have a quality education that makes them college and career ready?  I know that I alone cannot fundamentally change the way we educate these students.  I can, however, commit to do what I can to support and collaborate with teachers, parents, administrators and others as we embrace effective teaching, the Common Core, and college and career readiness.

Dr. Vicki Philips, Director of Education at the Gates Foundation said, "Go bold with innovation."  As I contemplate the upcoming school year, here is how I plan to GO BOLD.
  • I promise to offer more opportunities this year for my students to interact with other DHH peers and adults.  I plan to innovate by arranging social events throughout the year, such as bowling or roller skating.  I will use technology (i.e. FaceTime) to have my students talk to Deaf adults.  I will encourage all my students and their parents to attend Deafestival, Deaf Spelling Bee, Hands Alive, Explore Your Future and other events in our region.
  • I commit to supporting parents as they navigate through the forest of deaf education.  I would love to set up sign classes again so that these parents can learn to communicate with their children.  I hope this can happen.
  • I promise to investigate how to set up a weekend camp for DHH children and their parents as a way to offer support and education to parents and to provide social connections for DHH children.
  • I commit to support my DHH teacher colleagues as we begin the new Teacher Professional Growth and Effectiveness System.  I know I need the support as well.
  • I vow to continue the quest to reduce the isolation of DHH children because of the educational placement decisions made.  I hope through working with key individuals we can educate decision makers that there is legal precedent to having DHH students educated with their DHH peers at a nearby school that is not necessarily their neighborhood school.  Collaboration among teachers and administrators is vital to the education success of DHH students.  
All my professional commitments above cannot possibly happen through me alone.  I am surrounded by dedicated and awesome DHH teachers, interpreters, and assistants who all do what they can for our children.  Only when we collaborate can great things happen!

What are your commitments to your students this year?


  1. Hi Heidi,
    I found and have read several of your posts!!
    I use to teacher small group D/HH, but am now an Itinerant D/HH teacher and loving, working with my students in the general ed. classrooms.
    I had copies of Reading Milestones on my book shelves for years - editions from before 2000 and never used them. I would like to check out the new, updated editions since this is such a challenge for our students.
    Have a great 2014-15 School Year.
    BTW- I'm from St. Augustine and started out at FSD as a houseparent, then attended and graduated from Flagler.

    1. Just wanted to say that I also graduated from Flagler (2008) and worked with students at FSDB. :)

  2. I am so glad that you found my blog!! It is exciting to learn when people are reading it and learning from it.
    Yes, if you decide to start Reading Milestones again, definitely purchase the new version as it includes Depth of Knowledge unlike the previous versions.
    I worked in Miami for 5 years before moving to Kentucky. Small world!