Thinking Critically About Our Current Education System

Hi, my name is Kevin Cataldo, and I’m a recent graduate of Felician University in New Jersey. I was the chapter president of the Alpha Zeta Rho Chapter of KDP on campus. I’m also a representative of KDP to the United Nations, as a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO), and I am at currently a graduate student at Teachers College, Columbia University.

On July 15, 2019, Teachers College welcomed K–12 educators and all other stakeholders from across the country and around the world to its 4th Annual Reimagining Education Summer Institute (RESI).

During the Institute, participants got the opportunity to critically think about our current education system.

In fact, during Day 1, the participants were asked to keep the following questions in mind: Why must we “reimagine” education here in the United States? The remaining 3 days focused heavily on the following: (a) racial and cultural literacy, (b) equity pedagogy, and (c) culturally sustaining leadership.

Here I am with Dr. Ladson Billings!

This year’s keynote address was delivered in an eloquent, powerful, and thought-provoking manner by Dr. Gloria Ladson-Billings, a KDP Laureate.

She is considered a pioneer of culturally relevant teaching, a pivotal area of study in education that I hope to learn more about as I continue my graduate studies at Teachers College.

The Institute was extra special for me this year, as this was my first time participating in it. I also was a dialogue session co-facilitator.

During the 4 days, my co-facilitators and I provided K–12 educators and other stakeholders with a brave space to share their thoughts, feelings, concerns, and knowledge about our education system. As a soon-to-be first-year third-grade language arts and social studies teacher in Newark, New Jersey, the Institute provided me with hope that I have the power to “reimagine” our education system and truly make a difference in the lives of my students.

At the conclusion of the Institute, both educators and stakeholders were asked to return to their respective school communities with a crucial question in mind: “What Now?”

In other words, what will I do to bring equity pedagogy into my school community?

Today more than ever before, the United States and the world must join forces and “reimagine” education, especially since one’s society depends heavily on an educated citizenry.

Furthermore, as a member of Kappa Delta Pi, International Honor Society in Education, and as one of its UN Youth Representatives for the upcoming 2019–2020 academic school year, my goal is to raise awareness about this unique Institute at the world stage—at the United Nations Headquarters.

To end, raising such awareness can be beneficial not only to educators, but to other stakeholders within the United Nations as well.

Why? Think about it: The goal of the Institute is to help educators realize how vital it is for schools and stakeholders to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all” (SDG 4: Quality Education).

True Confessions

Dr. James A. Banks

Dr. James A. Banks is a KDP Laureate and one of the education “rock stars” Faye is excited to meet at Convo.

Faye Snodgress is the executive director of KDP International.

I was asked recently by a fellow KDP staff member why I seem to be a bit giddy when Convocation is being discussed. I had to confess…I am genuinely getting excited about Convo, and in particular about  seeing  my “rock stars” in education. Having heard about and read  works by James Banks for decades and frequently coming across his name in my work with the Laureate Chapter, the thought of meeting him and hearing him in person at Convo is nothing short of exhilarating. And Linda Darling Hammond! Her extensive research and thought-provoking articles are at the center of  education reform debates and teacher retention discussions. I still clearly remember her participation on the Laureate panel discussion of NCLB at Convo in 2003.

We all have education scholars that we remember from our days in teacher preparation and  from our ongoing  professional reading. They are people whose ideas and research challenge us to reflect on our understanding and practice as we pursue ever higher standards and performance for ourselves, for our schools, and for our educational policy. Laureates influence our profession in ways that makes all of us better educators. They are individuals that I greatly respect and admire. While I am busy  with the final preparations for Convo, there is still a growing  feeling of nervous excitement about meeting someone special. Yes, I’m giddy with anticipation. It doesn’t matter that I’m a self-proclaimed nerd. I can’t hide my excitement about the upcoming Laureate panels at Convo, where you will find me sitting in the front row. Convo is one of the very few venues when all members can personally and informally meet and talk to their personal “rock stars.” You can bet that I already have my books packed, ready to be signed by the scholars who authored them. For now, I continue to count the days until Friday, Oct. 25!