The University of Pennsylvania's campus is entangled in enduring evidence of Old Philadelphia and the glossy steel and glass of new medicine. Brick and mortar facades, dark and soft-edged, lay in the shadows of new construction racing the sun to the apex of the sky.
On the second floor of the nineteenth century constructed Houston Hall, we met in a room named for Benjamin Franklin.
No one forced the teachers to be here yesterday. No one paid us to go.
The currency, the bartering chip, was in the writing, the reflection, the sharing...the conversation we made.
Teachers from the Philadelphia public schools and the surrounding region met to share and write their stories. We are makers, and in the act of exposing reality, transforming reflection, and challenging the status quo we invest more in ourselves and our profession than any promise of salary.
The message yesterday was that teachers must share their stories.
The voice of education is the least heard, the last asked for. Don't wait to be asked. As keynote speaker, Meeno Rami said, "You think that? You believe that? Why don't you share that?"
To my teacher friends, the public dialogue about education is already happening...with or without you. Take part in it. Share the good news. Share a lesson. But write it down so that it lives on and becomes a part of the public record.
If we do not share our truths then those who do not know will make up their own truths about us.
And for many, that may be the only truth they ever read or know...so then it must be true.
Associate professor Dr. Luke Rodesiler found me through my online writing--through my willingness to share my story, my successes, my failures. Dr. Rodesiler travelled the country to meet with five educators who he found doing similar things online: me, Meeno Rami, Gary Anderson, Cindy Minnich, and Sarah Andersen. Together, we used the research and our experiences to collaborate on an article that we will be published in the July issue of English Journal: Transforming Professional Lives Through Online Participation. We also have the same material submitted to NCTE as a proposal for presentation at next year's conference.
None of that would have happened for any of us if we were not sharing our story. The payoff isn't in royalties. The payoff is in the seeds planted by writing. As Rami suggested yesterday, the act of writing, the act of reflection more specifically, "is an act of self-care."
Care for ourselves individually, yes, but even more importantly, care for our profession.
Tell the good stuff. Celebrate who you are and what you do. Celebrate your colleagues.
If we can come together on this, it will have a far-reaching impact on the perception of education. Otherwise, Arne Duncan, Bill Gates, Michelle Rhee...M. Night Shamalan (of all people, a mediocre film director has a voice in education and maybe you do not...are we now sharing the same angst?) will continue to thrust a skewed, false story into the eyes and ears of the public.
Tell our story. Share your story.
Every one counts.