Saturday, December 31, 2016

The Struggle is Real- threefold statement on leadership

December 31, 2016

As an instructional leader, I am perpetually looking for knowledge to inspire, to teach, and to broaden my current perspective. I am also personally interested in the quiet work of The Elders.  Many teachers are interested in social justice.  As our public school populations continue to shift, it is imperative that we understand our students' backgrounds and the walls of prejudice they face daily.  Chair of the Elders, Kofi Annan's statement on leadership is fourfold. These three points can guide current and future #teacherleaders

1.  Be open and willing to listen
2.  Need not always be right
3.  A good follower

BE OPEN. To be open is to understand that all of our teachers have brilliant ideas. We must be willing to listen to these ideas. Teacher leaders must also be open to the restrictive policies of our schools. Teacher leaders must guide teachers and administrators. Often, administrators see the bigger picture. For example, charter schools in our state can be closed based on test scores. As a teacher leader in a charter school, data is often more important than the individual desires of teachers. It often falls to a teacher leader to explain these intricacies to teachers. Teacher leaders balance the needs of admin with the needs of teachers by listening carefully.

NEED NOT ALWAYS BE RIGHT. A teacher leader must bravely admit their failings. To not always be right means understanding that needs of admin and the needs of teachers must come first. We can be wrong. Being in the middle is a balancing game. We need not always be right to accomplish our goals. Not always being right can broaden our perspective.

A GOOD FOLLOWER. Leaders must be good followers. Really? YES! In keeping with the season of Christmastide, or Twelvetide,  here are three christian followers who grew into notable leaders. Ultimately, we must model followership to model good leadership. Michael Hyatt, @MichaelHyatt provided these examples in his blogpost,
  • Joshua followed Moses for more than forty years before he led the children of Israel into the promised land.

    Elisha served Elijah for ten years before he took up his master’s mantle and went on to perform even more miracles.

    The Apostle Peter followed Jesus for three years—and made a lot of mistakes—before he and his fellow-disciples “turned the world upside down.” 
As I prepare for our next semester of school, I will prayerfully consider Kofi Annan's threefold statement to be open, to be okay with not always being right, and to be a good follower.

Suzanne Rogers, M.Ed.

District Director of Professional development, AP English teacher, ELA Coach and cradle United Methodist.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The Struggle is Real; a struggle against silence

The Struggle is Real; a struggle against silence
The struggle in education is real. Teachers must use their voices to tell the stories of their classrooms. Teachers are the only ones with a clear view of the path ahead. Unfortunately, teachers, all too often, feel silenced by the system. Or, they feel they must only tell the happy stories of education. This is the second post in this series.  Our classrooms may or may not resemble the community surrounding the school. All too often, our schools are an oasis of poor students within a more affluent society being taught by teachers not familiar with the culture of the students. But, what is the purpose of public education?

Affluenza has led many public school supporters to send their children to private school,  to virtual school, and to home school. Today, Alfie Kohn, @alfiekohn,  tweeted this statistic.
Proportion of all US public school students whose families are low-income: In 1989, <1/3. In 2013, >1/2.
All too often, the response to this type of startling statistic is denial. My own parents, born in the early 1930's, simply do not believe this statistic. It is not what they see. It is not what they experience on a day to day basis. In other words, it is not the life they lead. White privilege/affluenza puts blinders on our eyes. In 2015, the National Center for Children in Poverty, @NCCP,  found that 44 percent of the nation’s children live in low-income households, according to 2013 data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2013 American Community Survey. So, our public school systems are educating a higher percentage of low-income students due to the continued white and affluent flight from public schools.

The easy response to this rising statistic is to deny it or claim it doesn't matter to your family, or to your country. But, public education's goal, according to Thomas Jefferson, was to instill a liberty tree in every educated American heart as America's greatest defense against tyranny. (Do you still believe this to be true?)
Take this simple one-question test to determine your belief  published by @TakePart in its article 
"America’s Parents Are Confused About the Purpose of School."  Please read the full article for various poll results.

The purpose of sending children to school is to

A. Help them develop knowledge and critical-thinking skills.
B. Prepare them for citizenship.
C. Prepare them for work.
D. All of the above.

As the United States prepares for changes surrounding the Presidential appointment for Education Secretary, a sound understanding of our common beliefs regarding public education is paramount. Why should schools test to check for progress toward College entrance exams if the majority of those polled think we should be preparing our students for work.

Teachers, please use your voice! Speak to the realities of your classrooms. Engage in public dialogue about your school and about your views of education. Please, struggle against the silence.

Suzanne Rogers


District Director of Professional development, AP English teacher, ELA Coach and cradle United Methodist. 

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

The struggle is real-we must use our voice

The struggle is real. Teachers are intimidated to write or speak.  Teacher leaders must learn to use their voice. Canadian writer, Charles de Lint said, "Don't forget,  no one else sees the world you do so no one else can tell the stories that you have to tell. "  All too often teachers become wrapped up in the classes they teach and fail to see how they could help the larger body of students in a school, a district, or an entire state. Teacher leaders are literally in the trenches teaching our current body of students. We intimately know that the group of students we are teaching is divergently different from the students of the past. The voting public is unaware of the changes that have occurred in the public school system in the past twenty years. Our voices must be heard.

The demographics of the United States continues to evolve. Teacher leaders are often the first to witness the evolution. In 2010,  The Center for Public Education, @NSBAComm,  released startling statistics. Our population is growing, aging and becoming more diverse. The implications for public education are numerous. Most pressing is an aging population without school age children who are increasingly unwilling to fund public education initiatives for students who simply do not resemble their own children.  Public schools are the vanguard of change. As our populations shift ever more dramatically due to immigration and the availability of private schools, the public school population is shifting as well.  The increasing number of minorities and ELLs are changing the dynamics of the classroom. This shift is primarily due to our ever growing immigrant population. America has always been an immigrant nation. This need not change. Our schools and our policies impacting schools much change to meet the needs of our shifting population in public education.

While NCLB was intended to close the achievement gap and ESSA is intended to lessen the harmful effects of NCLB, the reality is that our student population has changed. To use 2010  as the starting point for our AMO, annual measurable objectives, has unintended consequences. Our public school population has shifted significantly since 2010.
With this shift comes more students who according to the independent research center, Child Trends, are at risk for poverty, single parent homes, parents with a low level of education, large family, family unable to own or buy a home. These are risks that a public school simply can not ameliorate.  So, what is a teacher leader to do? We should, as Madonna @Madonna creatively said, "Express yourself"! If we truly love our students, we need to share what is happening in our classrooms regarding the population changes.
It is up to teacher leaders to explain what is going on in our classrooms and our schools. We need to learn, connect, and lead. We can learn how to express ourselves. We can connect with other teacher leaders to fortify ourselves. We can lead as John King, @JohnKingatED-U.S. Secretary of Education, said, "

“We don’t just want educators to be part of the necessary change – we need them to lead it. ”

With these changes in our public schools, Soledad O'Brien's, @soledadobrien,  statement is pertinent. But, the question is real. Are our current teachers prepared to lead education as a civil right? Teachers have long been social justice heroes! Recently, the United States Supreme Court and the Michigan courts proclaimed reportedly said that literacy is not a fundamental right under the Constitution for the students in Detroit. How is that possible? Is this only a sign of things to come with our newly designated Secretary of Education?

Teacher leaders like Patrick Kearney, 
@kearneyiowa-a facilitator for Teacher Leadership in the Johnston Community School District in Iowa, are beginning to address the elephant in the room.   Simon Sinek, @simonsinek,  says, "Speaking truth to those in power means saying out loud what everyone else is thinking." Teachers are powerful reflectors. We need the power of those reflections to be mirrored to those in power.
We can and will make a difference, only if we use our voices. Please express yourself!

Crouch, R., Zakariya, S. B., & Jiandani, J. (2012). The United States of education: The changing demographics of the United States and their schools. Retrieved December 13, 2016, from

Suzanne Rogers


District Director of Professional development, AP English teacher, ELA Coach and cradle United Methodist. 
 Arkansas, USA

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Collaboration is the strategy-Children are the priority!

Collaboration is the strategy-Children are the priority!

On Monday evening, the Little Rock Stakeholders group made a historic decision to collaborate with the local charter schools. The Stakeholders, after more than ten years of increasingly combative appearances at the Board of Education, reviewed the latest OEP, Office for Education Policy, research on student movement within the Central Arkansas Area. You can read the report here, for more detail  here, and for even more detail here.

OEP's  enlightening news is that "when students exit traditional public schools in the Little Rock metro area, their exit makes the school more integrated." Additionally, and perhaps more importantly, "student transfers out of traditional schools are  improving the level of racial and economic integration in the Little Rock metro area public school system." WOW! With this research, the proverbial fist is beginning to stretch into an outstretched hand of collaboration.

Children are the priority in education. A simple statement, right? Now that the olive branch has been offered, what will the collaboration entail?  Will Little Rock and the charters decide to join the 21 cities that have signed collaborative compacts to help provide equitable access to schools and resources?

The Center for Reinventing Public Education at the University of Washington, Bothell might be an interesting asset. They are currently conducting a multi-year project that looks into what works and what can be refined in a district-charter collaboration. Uniquely, CRPE is also researching personalized education which in an innovation Arkansas. (Arkansas is a member of the CCSSO Innovation Network that is attempting to identify, test, and implement approaches to learning that will transform education) 

The children of Central Arkansas will definitely benefit from the collaborative effort of all educators. It is time for the children to rise on their shoulders of their elders and not be held back by the angst of segregation by color or school type. It is time that we all realize that collaboration is the strategy because children are the priority!

Suzanne Rogers


District Director of Professional development, AP English Teacher, ELA Coach and cradle United Methodist. 

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Collaboration IS the Strategy

Collaboration IS the Strategy
or 3 degrees of separation

Separation of educators has become the norm. Working in the public open-enrollment charter world, I have often been affronted by the accusation that charter schools are ruining public education. Yesterday, I had the distinct pleasure of meeting and discussing education in Arkansas with Principal Michelle Hayward, @Principal_MOH. Principal Hayward is a Twitter virtual friend!

Principal Hayward is the mother of one of our new teachers. Despite being on a tight schedule after a meeting at the Capitol, she willingly agreed to meet with us. Principal Hayward embraces the reality of change and knows that the children belong to all of us. She willingly and openly shared best practices from her school, such as implementing Empowering Writers, @EmpWriters. Clearly,  she embraces the idea espoused by Judith Billings. "Children are the priority. Change is the reality. Collaboration is the strategy."

Change is certainly an ongoing part of our educational landscape, and as such, leaders must learn to embrace change and collaborate for the benefit of our students.  Microsoft proved that humans are separated by no more than 6.6 levels. The reality is that we are only separated by three degrees. (Physical, relationships, and spirituality) When we work together (yes, this includes public schools, public charter schools, and private schools) we take risks that will benefit our students. With this common mission, we should express and experience kindness, caring, giving, nurturing, correcting and forgiving. Isn't that what our students need to learn?

Suzanne Rogers


District Director of Professional development, AP English teacher, ELA Coach and cradle United Methodist. 

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Food builds bridges to bring us together

      As the events of this week unfolded, I felt a bewildering mix of feelings including shame, pride, patriotism, and empathy. Shame for not being more politically active (tough as a teacher), pride that cub 2 voted, patriotism that the people had spoken, and empathy for those among us who are truly frightened by the election results. The fear of the unknown is often most emphatic, especially for children. Our president-elect has become the boogie man of their next four years. Keep in mind that fears are often unfounded but they remain fears until proven otherwise. As simple as it may sound, food builds bridges to bring us together
      It is true. Food builds bridges. A plate of brownies for a neighbor, soup kitchens for the homeless, cookies for college students during finals, dinners with colleagues, shared lunches in school, international fairs, and cookie exchanges are all examples of how food builds bridges. Teachers  and all Americans need to continue to practice civility and empathy. Food can help in that regard. We need to share our not only our cultures but also those things we have in common. We all share the need for food. Sharing our various food and recipes draws us closer. Together we are stronger! Together we will push through our collective fears.
     I will have a cookie exchange for my classes. Despite food rules regarding food in schools in my state, we can manage this event. Keeping in mind the specific food issues of our class, we will each bake fresh cookies that we want to share. Each person will then take home a new dozen cookies representative of their classmates.
     Some schools opt to have Thanksgiving dinners with the whole school. This is especially lovely if families are encouraged to bring their own favorite recipes to share. We must remember that just because this is American it doesn't mean that all families celebrate Thanksgiving. Tamales, Noah's pudding, gluten free bread, ratatouille, baklava, and yes, even haggis should be welcome! The very fabric of our nation is built on a wide range of recipes. Together we are stronger. Together we will defeat the boogie man of fear for our students.

Suzanne Rogers


District Director of Professional development, AP English teacher, ELA Coach and cradle United Methodist. 

Monday, November 7, 2016

Imagine! My Voice Matters!

Imagine! My Voice Matters!

     The theme for #ECET2AR is My Voice Matters!  Today, as I walked through the hallways, I was reminded that, indeed, my voice does matter. One of our new teachers mentioned that my post resonated with her. She said that although she had earned the right to wear jeans this week, my blog post, Teachers as Professionals, convinced her that she needed to dress for success in the classroom. How cool is that? My first response was simply shock! I write in a seeming vacuum. I was unaware that any of the teachers at my school read either of my blogs. My next feeling was warmth. Something that I wrote affected one of our teachers positively.  Again, how cool is that? During this month of giving thanks, this was fantastic news! I am thankful!
    As I was leaving this evening, I walked out with the same teacher.  Due to my blog post, she had made connections between teachers at previous schools who dressed down and had the resultant classroom management issues. Her response was to dress up for teaching success!
     All this to say that My Voice Matters! Sorry,  all of our voices matter! Starr Sackstein, a teacher, and prolific writer,  wrote in an Education Week blog, "Each one of us has a unique perspective that carries with it experience and learning that begs to be shared." Thank you, Starr!
     If you live in Arkansas and are interested in teacher leadership and teacher's voice, consider registering for #ECET2AR to learn more.

Suzanne Rogers
, M.Ed.


District Director of Professional development, AP English teacher, ELA Coach and cradle United Methodist.