A Rural U.S. Principal Reflects on Collective Lessons from the Closing Session of the International Summit on the Teaching Profession.
I thoroughly enjoyed listening to the closing session of the International Summit on the Teaching Profession in New York City on March 17. I found it encouraging that so many of the goals and concerns of educators in the United States are shared by educators around the world.
As an educator from a rural area In Washington, I often feel that much of the national discussion on education involves issues of our urban areas, but I am beginning to see that the challenges are in some ways universal. We all face the need to raise student achievement and close gaps, whether in rural or metropolitan settings, in Europe or Africa.
• One panelist observed that in all countries, the quality of education cannot exceed the quality of our teachers. This is why it is so important that we all find ways to improve our quality of teacher preparation programs and share with each other what is working.
• Another panelist reminded educators that student learning is the only real aim of our work, and it seemed that her words ring as true in India as they do in Brazil.
• One participant commented that the changing times have required her country to focus on transforming the curriculum so that the skills students learn arm them to compete in the globally competitive marketplace. In rural areas of Washington, I have struggled with limited resources to meet this challenge, but I imagine there are teachers in Japan going through the same thing.
A panelist from Norway encouraged me, when he/she urged that as we seek to improve education reform, we must respect and listen to teachers and give them autonomy while building trust. Trust is something that is earned every day, vertically and horizontally, among teachers and administrators, working all as professionals. Trust is a universal value, globally understood and appreciated.
By Tamra Jackson
Tamra Jackson is 2009-2010 Classroom Teaching Ambassador Fellow for the U.S. Department of Education. She currently serves as the principal Bridgeport High School, a remote rural high school in Bridgeport, WA.