Kappa Delta Pi’s Response to Charlottesville

The sad and tragic events that occurred in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Saturday, August 12 are a stark reminder of the importance and relevance of our work as educators. As members of Kappa Delta Pi, a storied organization with a 106-year legacy of inclusion and equity, we call on our members to take action.

First, stand united with us in support of our mission and vision for empowering, preparing, sustaining, and supporting teachers as they advocate for the best interests of students. We remain committed to the goal of advancing instruction so that students are globally aware, socially responsible, resilient, and able to solve problems in just and equitable ways.

Second, take an active role in developing empathy in ourselves and our students, and in modeling respect for others and tolerance for those whose ideas and beliefs are different than our own. By incorporating a social justice approach to education, young people of all backgrounds will learn that they are not victims of their circumstances and that they can become part of the desperately needed change to disrupt and eliminate inequities.

Third, directly confront and counter racism and discrimination, and provide a healthy and caring way to address these difficult issues. Silence supports a colorblind perspective that exists in many school settings and communities. As educators, we must work together and support one another to educate children who are committed to creating a better and more just society.

We can reach these goals by explicitly teaching current events like the one in Charlottesville to our students and helping them to understand the consequences of these actions. One person can make a difference; however, by working together as a profession, we can have an even more powerful impact on making our schools, our communities, and our world a better place.

Dr. Peggy Moch, Executive Council President (2016–2018)
Faye Snodgress, Executive Director

What is Parents Day?

Parents Day 2Many Americans are unaware that our nation has a new day of commemoration called Parents’ Day. This is good news for America’s parents and families.

In 1994 President Bill Clinton signed into law the resolution unanimously adopted by the U. S. Congress establishing the fourth Sunday of every July as Parents’ Day, a perennial day of commemoration similar to Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. According to the Congressional Resolution, Parents’ Day is established for “recognizing, uplifting, and supporting the role of parents in the rearing of children.” *Text of Legislation Creating National Parents’ Day (House Joint Resolution 398)

In every culture and time period, the family has stood as the most fundamental human institution. Family is the starting point of life. The most powerful of human bonds is the parent-child relationship. Commitment to family has always been a core value.

Tragically, however, as our nation struggles with the effects of family breakdown, youth violence and a host of other critical problems, more and more voices are calling for a re-examination of our priorities and fundamental values. Too often we have let other concerns take precedence over our responsibilities as parents. Yet is there any more important calling than that of nurturing and raising a child?

Unfortunately, our popular culture over the past several decades has emphasized self-fulfillment and self-gratification. Such focus on the self runs counter to the essence of parenthood, which fundamentally involves unconditional true love. Parents’ Day provides an opportunity to recognize and promote parenting as a central vocation for our families and communities. More than just a time to celebrate, it is an occasion to make a statement about what is important in our society. It is a chance to create a positive tradition based on a core axiom – that the role of parents is crucial in the nurturing and development of children, and thus requires investment, focus, and commitment. *Text of Legislation Creating National Parents’ Day (House Joint Resolution 398)

The establishment of Parents’ Day was the result of a bipartisan, multiracial and interfaith coalition of religious, civic and elected leaders who recognized the need to promote responsible parenting in our society and to uplift ideal parental role models, especially for our nation’s children. Since the creation of this annual day of commemoration, local faith communities, elected officials and activists throughout the nation have creatively launched many activities around the theme of Parents’ Day designed to celebrate and strengthen the family. “The National Parents’ Day Council does not envision Parents’ Day to be yet “another” day to honor parents, but rather a day when parents honor their children and the God-centered family ideal by rededicating themselves to manifest the highest standard of unconditional true love.” (Taken from http://www.parentsday.com/about)

The establishment of Parents’ Day affords a wonderful opportunity to honor exemplary parents and to encourage families everywhere to invest in our most precious resource—our children. Kappa Delta Pi applauds all parents and supports teachers as they work with parents to make the lives and futures of students safer, more secure, and brighter.

To learn more about Parents’ Day, go to www.parentsday.com

Other countries celebrate Parents’ Day on other days. South Korea celebrates on May 8. The United Nations proclaimed June 1 to be the Global Day of Parents “to appreciate all parents in all parts of the world for their selfless commitment to children and their lifelong sacrifice towards nurturing this relationship”. It is the same day as International Children’s Day.

A Huge Year for Learning for Students and Teacher Alike

Becky and Addi picRebecca Rushmore has taught Kindergarten this year on a temporary contract at Hickory Elementary, part of the Avon Community School Corporation which is near Indianapolis, Indiana. She is applying for elementary teaching jobs for next fall in anticipation of another year of growth and learning. Between her graduation with a degree in elementary education from Purdue University and her first teaching position this year, she was a manager at Radio Shack and worked in veterinary practice. Her daughter started Kindergarten this year, so the two of them have had fun comparing what they’ve done each day and each week throughout the year. She wrote today’s blog for National Kindergarten Day.

As teachers we have all had “the first year of teaching.” The one where some days you wonder if this is really all worth it. Is it worth it to spend so much time at school and away from my family preparing for the next lesson, the next week, or the next observation? But then two days later you wonder how and why you ever did anything else before teaching.

Rebecca's official school picture

Rebecca’s official school picture

But really, this has been a wonderful first year of teaching for so many reasons. For one, my mentor, another kindergarten teacher, has been beyond wonderful in so many ways! She is always there to encourage me when I don’t feel like I know what I’m doing, and she is there to push me when she knows I need it. She has resources for anything and everything. And she is a great listener who offers advice for my difficulties.

But my favorite part of my first year of teacher is my kindergarteners. They are amazing and are changing so fast in so many ways! The week before Spring Break was one of those great “Ah-Ha” weeks for me. We were working on writing in class, and with report cards having just come out a couple weeks before, I knew where most of my students were with their writing level. But I also knew that I had some students who were on the bubble of achieving the next level with their writing. So I did what I have been afraid to do all school year with their writing: I pushed them for more – more details, more sentences, and more information. And it was incredible! Some of my students who I didn’t think were ready to move to the next level of writing completely blew me away! And those who I knew were ready did even better than I expected. It was so rewarding!

It was a week where I really started to realize how much kindergarteners change throughout the school year. They come in to school at such different stages. Some of them are more than ready. They know half the sight words already, can count to 100, and know their letters and numbers forwards and backwards. But some of them come in to kindergarten with no previous structure, having never been away from their parents, and with no knowledge of letters or how they make words. But yet, they are all expected to know the same things when they leave kindergarten, including addition and how to write basic sentences. And it is my job as a kindergarten teacher to guide them through their journey. It is such a huge year for students to learn and develop and change. And it is so important for them to build upon.

And then I realized what a huge year it has been for me as a new teacher, to learn and grow and develop and change. And a year for me to build upon no matter where I teach or what grade level I teach after this.

KDP Celebrates You During National Volunteer Week

Rachel Gurley is chapter operations coordinator at Kappa Delta Pi.

thankyouvolunteerweek2015

Getting a personal thank-you card is always a gesture everyone appreciates. As a Kappa Delta Pi volunteer, you are the core of what we do. Whether you are a counselor, officer, committee member, or dedicated member of KDP, we appreciate the selfless sacrifice of your time. Without committed volunteers, Kappa Delta Pi would not be thriving today among educators dedicated to teaching. We not only recognize excellence in education, we recognize your volunteer role as invaluable. Thank you for all that you do!

Steps for School Safety in Your District

In the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy, schools have increased (or continued) their focus on school safety and preparation. See this recent post [blogs.edweek.org] What recent or additional steps has your school (or district) taken regarding school safety? How have you involved parents/ guardians and community members in this process?

William L. Sterrett is an assistant professor and CIS coordinator in the Watson College of Education at the University of North Carolina, Wilmington.

Contradictions in School Safety Coverage

Why is there so much contradiction when it comes to keeping or making our schools safe? While I do not believe having an armed guard at a school is the answer to safety for children and schools, I do not think reading about the mayor of Philadelphia and the Governor of New Jersey and how they angrily attack the idea of armed guards in schools, then reading in the same newspaper or news release that their schools have armed guards is the answer. These two politicians are presenting  such a contradiction of ideas and beliefs, and I am sure there are other governors and mayors who are vehemently attacking the IRA and armed guards being placed in the schools yet we read in the newspapers about armed guards being placed at their schools as well. Why is there such a contradiction of ideals when we all should be focused on creating a more safe environment and agreeing on ideas about what can and should be accomplished?

A uniform approach and less political posturing are needed. We have experienced horrific events at Sandy Hook Elementary and Columbine High School. We do not need politicians who are posturing for re-election or furthering their political careers to be using the safety of our schools as a political issue.

Clear thinking and reasonable solutions are what is needed.  Conversations about real solutions and remedies for this horrible trend have to be had. Conversations that involve all stakeholders and not just politicians can pinpoint real solutions that are based on real situations. Research is telling us that our schools are much safer now than a decade ago.

The conversation should focus on what is working and how to make real choices and improvements that will continue to improve the safety of our most precious national resource.  Instead of new gun regulations that would most likely not prevent a mentally unstable individual from entering a school and shooting students and teachers, a plausible approach would be to look at policies that have already proven to be  successful and add to or improve upon those policies.

Marcia Bolton, Ed.D. is an Associate Professor of Education and the Director Certification, Student Teaching and Intern Programs at Widener University Chester, PA.

Establishing a Safe Learning Environment

Many schools have increased their vigilance regarding those who enter their buildings.  Procedures include single entry points, requiring visitors to request permission to enter by communicating with main office personnel, vestibule video cameras, adult or (sometimes) student escorts, and security personnel stationed at common entry points among other strategies.

While ensuring a safe learning environment is not arguable practical constraints very often determine the strategies and procedures that can be effectively employed in achieving this result.   Frequently, cost is at the top of the list.  But schools have found ways to fund efforts to provide safe learning environments.

Despite the implementation of such procedures I have seen people (myself included) wandering around schools that I have had the opportunity to visit not having checked –in, not being escorted, not wearing visitor identification.   Yet the money has been spent on efforts to secure entry.

Are those of us responsible for implementing security strategies and procedures truly paying attention, making a personal commitment, putting forth the effort to make sure that, to the best of our abilities, schools remain a safe place to spend time?

How effective is restricted access in establishing a safe learning environment?

Raymond J. Dagenais, Ed.D. is a Curriculum/Professional Development Specialist at the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy and a co-leader of the Design Team for the Aurora University based John C. Dunham STEM Partnership School

Education and the Fiscal Cliff

One of our Public Policy & Advocacy members recently received a notice from his state teacher union. Part of the notice read:
If sequestration occurs…it looks like Virginia schools would lose $69,002,000, with an impact on 114,030 students, and job losses totaling 1,317.
Teachers in Virginia and around the country are facing the potential of sequestration, or the taking of pay and benefits to offset budget shortfalls. These measures are now being associated with the “fiscal cliff,” the well-publicized automatic budget cuts that will take place at midnight on Dec 31 if Congress cannot reach an agreement on changes to federal spending and revenue. In one recent example from outside education, the Hostess Bakery ended its operations, declared bankruptcy, and has begun selling off its assets–including some $50 million in worker pensions and company-matched retirement funds. While it’s unlikely that our public schools are formally sold as liquid assets, the concerns raised by sequestration and budgetary concerns are real.
If you’re an educator who is nervous about sequestration, you have good reason. Education Week recently ran an article detailing the possible effects the fiscal cliff can have on teachers and students. Among other issues, they reported an 8.2% across-the-board cut in DoE funding should the fiscal cliff scenario play out. In part, this is expected to impact the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act; NCLB and Race to the Top waivers; and perhaps funding for key programs like Title II grants or Head Start.
You can be a voice for yourself and your students. Talks are scheduled to begin again after the Thanksgiving holiday, perhaps running through Christmas. Urge your representatives in state and federal government to take action now to prevent these economic threats to public education (you can use the links at the bottom of this page). Use your voice!
Alexander “Sandy” Pope is a Ph.D. student in social studies education at Teachers College, Columbia University
Aside

The Chicago teachers’ strike matters for more than education

The current strike of Chicago’s public school teachers is not just a dispute over better wages and working conditions, but a fight for the survival of public education in the U.S. As access to quality public schools is essential for the working-class, it is apposite that the basic organization of the working-class – the union, is being used in this fight to defend public education.  Thus the Chicago Teachers Union’s (CTU) battle with Chicago Public Schools (CPS) should not just be embraced by advocates of public education but by the entire labor movement as well. Chicago’s teachers, by dusting off the long under utilized lessons of U.S. labor history, are teaching us a valuable lesson on how unions have and can be used to bring about progressive reform and systematic change.

Leave it to teachers to actually learn from the past.  Since the 1950s the labor movement has overwhelmingly relied on two labor/management conflict strategies. One being business unionism where contract disputes are settled at the bargaining table by bureaucrats and lawyers. The other is simply voting for Democratic candidates hoping they will represent the interests of labor. Reliance on these two strategies has resulted not only in decades of retreat but also the near decimation of the labor movement as a whole. Instead of following these dead ends, the CTU has reached back to the numerous examples of social movement unionism of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

In 2010, the insurgent Caucus of Rank-and-File Educators (CORE) took over the leadership of the CTU, transforming the CTU from an appendage of the Daley Machine and into a grass roots union tied to parent and community organizations. A year later when Barack Obama’s right hand man, Rahm Emanuel, was elected mayor of Chicago the CTU knew it had a fight coming its way. Emanuel has been determined to implement the education policies of Obama’s Secretary of Education and former CEO of CPS, Arne Duncan. Duncan’s Race to the Top education policy through the expansion of charter schools and the busting of teacher unions basically boils down to the goal of privatizing public education.

No one becomes a teacher to get rich. As teachers, the members of the CTU have placed the welfare and education of Chicago’s 350,000 public school students above all other demands. Their document The Schools Chicago’s Students Deserve makes this abundantly clear.  In response the Illinois state legislature passed legislation making it illegal for the CTU to bargain over any issues other than those related to wages and compensation. This meant that issues such as class size, curriculum, and guaranteeing that all Chicago public schools have the libraries, nurses, social workers, textbooks, air conditioning, and playgrounds needed could no longer be bargained or struck over. With the Emanuel administration not negotiating in good faith and refusing to address the basic social and material needs of Chicago’s students the CTU prepared for a strike. Again the CTU took a lesson from the past. They prepared for a strike not to use as a threat during bargaining, but a strike to win.

The CTU strike has transformed the debate on education reform. It has also shown the labor movement a true example of how to fight back against austerity. Through striking the CTU has dealt a blow not only to the Emanuel administration, but also to the bipartisan assault on public education. This past weekend CPS conceded to the CTU a number of wage and compensation demands, while at the same timing essentially rewriting every article of the basic CTU/CPS contract that has been the model for the past fifty years. In sticking to their democratic rank-and-file principles, and not trusting CPS, the CTU’s House of Delegates (HOD) voted to continue striking in order to give its membership time to go over and discuss the contract proposal. This time is also needed for the CTU membership and its allies to figure how to continue the fight for the non-strikable demands that sparked the conflict with CPS. In response to the HOD vote, Emanuel is seeking an injunction against the CTU to end the strike, stating the strike is a “clear and present danger to public health and safety.”  Coming from someone who refuses to provide nurses, social workers, or air conditioning to a large number of schools this injunction attempt is pure hypocrisy. Until a contract is signed all advocates of public education and the entire labor movement needs to put its support behind the CTU.

Tom Alter is working on his Ph.D. in labor history at University of Illinois at Chicago, and a member of the Chicago Teachers Solidarity Campaign.

Strike! And other avenues for exercising teacher voice

Chicago teachers are in their second day of striking. Teachers are worried about new measures that tie retention to strict accountability measures. The immediate impact is that 350,000 students are out of school. Given the recent focus on instructional seat time and days-in-session, these missed days can make a statement. If nothing else, parents are being drawn into the dialogue, forced to account for their children on days they would otherwise be in school.

Perhaps in response to all of those prospective voters feeling the impacts, President Obama and presidential hopeful Romney have issued statements about the strike. Each candidate wants to seem “tough” on teachers, stressing some measure of compromise in order to balance the perceived need for teacher accountability with urban concerns about the strength of teacher unions. In an interesting example, would-be VP Paul Ryan announced his support for Rahm Emmanuel on the grounds that unions in Chicago and elsewhere are too powerful.

As an educator, you have a voice. As a KDP member, you can add that voice to 45,000 or so other members. Many of those members already have the power of collective bargaining. Others live and practice their professions in “right to work” to states that deny protections for group acts like strikes.

How do you use your voice in shaping educational policy in your community? How would you like KDP to help you exercise your voice to improve our profession?