Thursday, May 16, 2013

"Be the change that you wish to see in the world." Mahatma Gandhi

Dear Mr. President and Members of Congress,

My name is Suzie Lak, I am a second grade teacher at John M. Sexton Elementary School in St. Petersburg, Florida and I absolutely love my job.  I am passionate about teaching and helping to inspire young children to accomplish everything they set their minds to.  I never see a mountain too high that my children can't climb given the right tools and motivation.  My mission in life is to positively educate the youth of today, so that they may be the leaders of tomorrow.  I believe in educating children socially, emotionally, academically and ethically.  I believe that each child is a unique individual who needs a secure, caring, and inspiring atmosphere. I believe it is incredibly important to incorporate digital tools, speaking, listening, and writing into everyday lessons in order for children to be capable adults who can also positively impact and change the world.  I know I can continue what I do in the classroom, impact a group of children every year, and feel happy about what I do.

But I also believe there is more I can do.  Just as Mahatma Gandhi says, "Be the change that you wish to see in the world," I believe that I should live and breathe these words in order to lay the foundation and path for my students to someday follow. I think everyone knows that there needs to be a major change in education.  I agree that the Common Core State Standards are a positive shift in education.  But, I think we have miles to go to catch up to our international counterparts.  Just as our students have learning to do on a daily basis and teachers have learning to do in order to keep transforming their practice, I think the United States has learning to do change our educational system for the better.

I choose not to spend anytime complaining about the state of education.  In order to be the change, I won't dwell on what is wrong, rather focus on what I can do to make things better.  There have been several studies asked of parents about who they trust most to make educational policy, and not surprising the results show that parents trust teachers the most.  I believe this is because we are the people that most closely work with and directly impact their children; the pride and joys of their lives.  So why is it that educational policy is mostly directed by people who are not in education?  The short answer is, that is how politics work. We vote people to be in charge to make the best decisions they can make.  I don't fault politicians for not fully understanding education, as it is those of us who have lived and breathed pedagogy (the science and art of education); those of us who have received our college degree in teaching, advanced our education in a variety of ways and continue to be involved in Professional Development to be the best teachers we can be on a daily basis.

So why don't we work together to make these decisions?  I firmly believe this is the only way to make a complete educational shift in the United States.  Here is my plan.  I think that every politician should pair up with a teacher.  If every politician in local, state and national government had a teacher companion, there would be an alliance between government and education. There are many wonderful teachers from across the country who would love to open up classrooms to share the "behind the scenes" of what goes on in the education world.  For as much as I have thought about leaving the classroom to work on educational policy, I can tell you that my heart just cannot leave.  I wake up every morning with a smile on my face because I know that I have a classroom full of seven and eight year old children who depend on me.  They crave knowledge and want to know the answers to all questions in the world, and I strive to guide them along this path.  But why should I have to leave the classroom to do what it is I really want to do?  I think if educators who are truly passionate about teaching are able to stay in the classroom and help make change, it would be in the best interest of everyone. 

What I ask from you Mr. President and esteemed members of Congress, is to come into our classrooms.  Visit a classroom on a consistent basis and learn about what is important in the world of education.  Come shadow a teacher for a day, in order to help make informed decisions when educational policy discussions happen.  We can share our gift of the love of teaching with you. I believe this is when you will see what is important, what is going well, and what changes can be made.  We can form a bond and you can come to us with your questions and ideas for us to help.  And believe me, I don't think I have all the answers.  But I'm willing to spend my time trying to find them.  I believe I have so much to learn in the world of education.  But I am passionate about education and I want to continue to learn what is best for children.

So I pledge this...I promise to continue learning about education and educating myself on a daily basis. I promise to put my heart and soul into education, not for a paycheck, but for the belief in a wonderfully educated future for all children. I promise to continue finding the most top-notch educational organizations to be a part of.  I will spend my time reading professional articles about education, learning from other educators, and being involved in collegial conversations about education.  I will work with the changing shifts of education and spend my nights and weekends planning lessons that will make an impact o my students. I will reflect on my teaching and make necessary changes.  I will differentiate what I am doing in the classroom in order to help all students succeed.  I will keep up my National Board for Professional Teaching Standards certification and follow their guiding principles in order to advance the quality of teaching and learning and help advance all students learning and achievement.  I will work with the National Writing Project and share their mission to improve writing and learning for all learners.  I will attend national conferences which will inform my instruction and help transform my teaching.  I will put in all the legwork of learning and keeping up with every shift and change in education. 

Here is all I ask of you. Please come visit my classroom.  Please visit other educators' classrooms across the country and engage in conversations about what is best for children.   Find an educator that you can continuously talk with, share ideas, ask questions and get suggestions from.  Let us do the legwork. Please don't have those of us who are incredibly passionate about education feel like we have to leave the classroom to make a difference.  Let us make a difference by staying in the classroom and doing what we love to do. Please work with us so we may all "Be the change that you wish to see in the world!" 


2012 Donald H. Graves National Writing Award Winner (NCTE)
2011 Tampa Bay Area Writing Project Teacher Consultant and Leadership Council Member
2010 National Board Certified Teacher in Middle Childhood Generalist

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