Alabama Teacher of the Year Jennifer Brown sent out a message through Twitter last Sunday afternoon encouraging teachers to invite legislators into their classrooms this week.
Invite a legislator to your classroom this week. Educators are the only ones who can change this conversation!! pic.twitter.com/SZTdeEYqt2
— Jennifer Brown (@jbrownaps) January 24, 2016
Sure, it was short notice, and yes, the legislative session begins next week, but…..what’s that saying about it’s the thought that counts?
I spoke with Brown, who teachers 10th grade science in Vestavia Hills City Schools, about what inspired her to craft the invitation and why she believes it’s important to get state legislators into Alabama’s classrooms.
Here’s what she said.
Last week, she attended a Teacher of the Year conference in San Antonio, Texas. Arizona’s Teacher of the Year, Christine Marsh, shared that she regularly invites legislators into her classroom and that it was very powerful for legislators to see what is happening inside classrooms.
On the way home from the conference, sitting in the San Antonio airport, Brown designed the invitation.
She asked some of her colleagues whether hers was a good idea, and they agreed, responding with a resounding yes.
“I know there’s one thing we all have in common—legislators, teachers, parents—we all care about kids,” Brown said.
“I feel like it’s important for legislators to talk with teachers and students. Legislators need to see the innovative things happening in our classrooms. Real learning is taking place in school.”
“Sometimes, when you get so far removed from school, you forget what it’s like and you forget what real learning looks like.”
Brown acknowledges that state legislators are an important part of the public education community, and “we are in a partnership together”.
“We want [legislators] in our schools. We want them to be a part of this teaching and learning process. We want them to see what we’re doing and we want to help shape legislation to help schools always improve. We have to figure out how that improvement benefits students.”
Alabama State Department of Education Governmental Relations and Public Affairs Coordinator Tracey Meyer viewed Brown’s invitation as an opportunity for state lawmakers to see for themselves what’s happening in Alabama’s public schools.
Meyer, in an emailed statement said, “I encourage our legislative stakeholders to take advantage of this invite and see for themselves how our Alabama College and Career Ready Standards are being implemented and how, for so many school systems, they are making the very most of dollars that are not nearly adequate enough when it comes to classroom funding. Ask questions, partake in a lesson, make some new friends – I can promise any legislator, especially one who may not have yet had an opportunity to visit a local school, that they will be enlightened when educators speak to them personally on behalf of their most cherished assets…Alabama’s students.”
Brown said she received a lot of positive feedback from fellow teachers who also recognize that legislators need to see for themselves what is happening in our schools.
Earlier this week, Brown penned an open letter to Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) and other legislators who are working on legislation that will affect teacher evaluations and tie teacher pay to teacher evaluations and student growth. Two days later, Marsh announced that tying teacher pay to teacher performance was off the table.
When asked whether any legislators have taken her up on her invitation, she acknowledged that the timing wasn’t great and it was likely difficult for lawmakers given that the annual legislative session starts next Tuesday, February 2.
Brown said that some lawmakers have contacted her to say they want to make the time for the visit as soon as their schedules allow. She plans to hold them to their word.
For those on Twitter, follow along, as Brown has created a hashtag to keep teachers voices and transformation at the forefront: #transformALed.
— Jennifer Brown (@jbrownaps) January 27, 2016
P.S. Twitter is THE place where discussion happens among educators about how to improve and impact public education.
[This post was updated on January 29, 1:20 p.m. to correct Tracey Meyer’s official position with the Alabama State Department of Education.]