Commentary

NTC Symposium Day 1: Calling for a Narrative Shift in Education

By Tracy Kremer, New Teacher Center Director of Communication

The 19th National Symposium on Teacher Induction, “Realize: Grow + Teach + Lead,” is off to a powerful start! District, school and state leaders – and educators at all levels – have all assembled for our annual conference to hear how fellow education leaders across the country are solving some of their most pressing challenges. We kicked off our first full day with keynotes from our CEO and founder Ellen Moir, and from Dr. Chris Emdin, Associate Professor in the Department of Mathematics, Science and Technology at Teachers College, Columbia University and author of For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood … and the Rest of Y’all Too: Reality and Pedagogy in Urban Education.

“Silence is not acceptable in America today,” Ellen declared at the start of her morning keynote, which you can view here via Facebook Live. She urged those in the audience — representing 34 states, 118 school districts and over 13 million students — to lead and speak up in our movement to ensure all students, no matter their zip codes, have the opportunity to reach their full potential. She hit on our responsibility to use our collective voice to show that public education is the foundation of our democracy, and encouraged those in the room to ensure education dollars are spent in a way that has the greatest impact on student learning and teacher development. She made a personal promise to explain the role of Title I dollars and just how critical creating equity in education is today, if given the opportunity to meet with the new secretary of education Betsy DeVos

Ellen went on to make it clear that we must build teacher voices, as well as a better teaching profession altogether. To do this, mentors and coaches must provide real, meaningful feedback; they must speak out and tell the truth in an authentic way. School leaders also play a crucial role in establishing more successful teaching and learning environments. Ellen stated that these leaders are responsible for inspiring others on the ground. We must grow our school leaders and principals if we want to better the education ecosystem as a whole. Ellen also hit on the importance of mindful learning in order to deliver the most impactful education for students. She emphasized the importance of teaching – and reaching – all students regardless of how long they have been in this country. She closed with a call to action, “You thought you were coming to hear a keynote? You’re here to work. We’re going to do this together.” 

Later in the day, Chris’s keynote ended in a standing ovation and it began just as powerfully. He likened our country’s political climate to Edward Lorenz’s Butterfly Effect, and galvanized the room around the core issues preventing us from achieving equity in education. With a deep conviction that education is the civil rights battle of our time, Chris compellingly addressed the key issues head-on, encouraging teachers to embrace a role that is both “fully activist and teacher.”

He put the spotlight on the issues that are creating inequity in education and hit hard on the dangers of becoming complacent about the problems that exist in education. Instead he challenged the audience: “What will you be maladjusted to?” Calling for a dynamic narrative shift in education, Chris let us know that he is done adjusting to systemic problems in education and that we need to change the way we approach teaching to incorporate soul and true connection with students. “Teaching without soul is just talking,” he explained.

Chris covered how to use new approaches in neuroscience to activate oxytocin, dopamine, endorphins and serotonin to fully engage children in social and emotional learning. Walking through the audience and speaking directly to tables, he called upon symposium attendees to embrace the cultural differences children bring to the classroom and use those to engage with them on a deeper level. “I’m not here to keynote,” he stated firmly as he called for teachers, mentors and school leaders to fight for progress and change in education amidst today’s political climate. “I’m here to recruit for the army.”

He closed by quoting Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., saying “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

Attending the NTC Symposium? Let us know what inspired you most on day one.

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