Reflections of an Educator
As a former teacher and administrator, it’s no surprise that I love learning. Love it! Spending two days closely working with brilliant superintendents and talented leaders from the nation is my version of Disneyland. We treat ourselves to analogies and data sets instead of rides and tasty treats. Hearing others reinforce what we at NSBR know to be true: educators are the heartbeat of our community. I was reminded of the deep level of gratitude I feel working for an organization entirely dedicated to making sure we as a city are able to recruit and retain highly effective teachers to Baton Rouge. Teach225 was created to celebrate educators, elevate the teaching profession, and provide opportunities for collaboration among these elite professionals. I have yet to meet any other city with an organization designed with the sole purpose of focusing on our educators in this manner.
Less exciting, was the reason for our convening. We were gathered to find solutions to the question, “How can districts and cities effectively recruit and retain educators while experiencing a national shortage of teachers?” An important question with a multifaceted, complex answer. After 48 hours together it became evident that:
1. No one has a magic answer. There is no magical warehouse of educators waiting for principals to come whisk them away to a successful school year. We must have the resources, skill sets, and leaders required to effectively grow and support effective teachers. The “secret sauce” is more of a combination of key variables, the leading one being culture. How do schools, districts, and communities support their educators? If our budget is the statement of our values, how are we as a community showing teachers and leaders that we value them?
2. The solution must come as the result of collaboration among all stakeholders in a community. There’s a powerful image that shows what the Roman Empire looked like at one point in its history. The phrase, “All roads lead to Rome'' was literally created to describe this image, or more accurately the complex, interwoven infrastructure that was created to provide deliberate access for any and all to journey to Rome. We must ask ourselves how are we as a community working together to maximize our resources, talent, and time to create strategies and systems that create opportunities that “lead to Baton Rouge.”
3. Long term sustainability requires investments in strategies that yield both immediate and long term benefits. We like immediate gratification in all things. Especially in any endeavor that directly impacts our children. It is no different in Education. We want the best teachers for our schools and we want them now. To do that means we may have to learn how to delay what we want now (great educators in our classrooms today) for what we require long term: a sustainable, multifaceted, diverse pipeline of educators ready to serve the Baton Rouge community.
In less than three weeks it will be Teacher Appreciation Week. I challenge each person, company, business, and organization within our community to identify one way they will celebrate the Educators of our city during May 2-6. While this is not the only answer, it is a part of the solution. Over the course of the next few months I look forward to connecting with educators, leaders, and stakeholders throughout our community to understand how we can work together to find a solution to this existential threat.