Will Our Voice Be Heard?

My life has been somewhat of a whirlwind in the past few days. On Saturday, Jenks hosted the first EdCamp in the Tulsa area. Over 150 administrators, teachers, parents, and even a few students participated in the event. The attendees were from 50 different districts and four states. I had a fantastic time working with a team of educators in organizing the event and participating as a learner.

EdCamps are a new type of professional development that are distinguished by the lack of a prearranged agenda. According to the EdCamp Foundation: “An EdCamp is built on principles of connected and participatory learning. Edcamp strives to bring teachers together to talk about the things that matter most to them: their interests, passions, and questions. Teachers who attend Edcamp can choose to lead sessions on those things that matter, with an expectation that the people in the room will work together to build understanding by sharing their own knowledge and questions.”

It was inspiring to experience the passion and excitement of educators who willingly gave up a Saturday to learn from and share with others. There were several first-year teachers and, on the other end, a 44-year veteran of the classroom, Mrs. Kathy Rubey from Jenks. Isn’t that awesome? Kathy modeled perfectly the ideal of being a life-long learner. She even set up her very first Twitter account during the day!

Also in attendance for a portion of the day was Joy Hofmeister, Republican candidate for State Superintendent. Joy stopped by several sessions–not to campaign–but to listen and engage with educators. Joy also attended the OKC EdCamp at U.S. Grant High School last month. It’s nice to see a political candidate who seems to have a genuine interest in working and learning with educators.

Contrast that to today when 25,000 educators, parents, and students came together at the Oklahoma State Capitol to rally for public education. Who wasn’t in attendance? You guessed it–the State Superintendent of Public Education. Dr. Barresi apparently could not find the time to participate in the first major rally for public education in our state in over twenty years. To her credit, I think even Janet realized that her presence at the rally would have elicited a response from educators chillier than the morning winds blowing across the Capitol grounds.

What does that say when the state’s education leader is essentially Persona non grata at a rally for public education? This was a rare time when tens of thousands gathered to advocate for adequate school funding and respect for the teaching profession? A little EmBARRESIng to say the least (misspelling intentional).

Honestly, I am glad Superintendent Barresi did not attend this morning. Today was for people who truly care about Oklahoma kids, teachers, and schools, and not for individuals whose actions seek to punish schools and disparage educators. Dr. Barresi can proclaim all day about pushing for more funding for schools and teacher compensation. We don’t buy it. Actions count more than words. It is far too late for Dr. Barresi to try to change her stripes at this point.

If you were at the rally today, I don’t have to tell you how terrific the event was. The speakers were all excellent, but I especially enjoyed the students from Norman and Warner Public Schools. They each reminded us of the absolute value of quality teachers as well as the incredible potential of youth. Tulsa Superintendent Dr. Ballard also rocked the house during his remarks.

Like many of you, I will spend the next few days reliving the rally through scanning the thousands of Twitter posts (#okedrally) and comments and pictures posted on multiple websites and blogs. If I haven’t said it before, I love Twitter!

I was very pleased when a few of you came up to introduce yourselves and share your stories with me. I’m not quite used to the extra attention garnered by being an education blogger. It’s a little humbling. Here is a picture of me with some teachers from Moore Public Schools. After what their district has endured in the past twelve months, I consider these educators true heroes!

Today was an incredible day for Oklahoma Public Schools! 25,000+ voices for public education coalesced into one powerful and passionate message for legislators who were hopefully listening. The message was loud and clear: (1) Oklahoma’s children are our state’s most valuable resource; (2) Oklahoma public schools should be the first priority for state funding; and (3) Oklahoma’s educators deserve respect and should be paid as the professionals we are.

We will be following closely to see how the legislators respond to this message. We will be following their votes on upcoming education legislation. And we will be voting this November FOR those individuals who are true advocates for public education and AGAINST those who are not.

A final note to our hard-working legislators. We may have traveled home from OKC to our respective districts, but we have not gone away. We are very much present, we are paying attention, and it would be foolish to ignore us anymore.

A Bunch of Malarkey!‘Howe’ the A-F did this happen?
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