The May/June issue of the Journal of Teacher Education kicks off with an editorial from Hilda Borko (Stanford University) and Jennie Whitcomb and Dan Liston (University of Colorado) inviting individuals whose work centers on teaching and teacher education to write letters to the 44th president of the United States offering their advice to ensure quality teaching and teacher education. Two themes cut across the eight letters published in the issue: improving the conditions of children’s lives and lending dignity to the teaching profession.

Christine Sleeter from California State University Monterey invites the presidential candidates to strengthen teaching and teacher education for diverse students. She provides snapshots of strong teachers of diverse students. One of the teachers, Juanita, had her second graders writing books using computers. This teacher realized that so much of the standard skills-based instruction proagram was boring and it was all about paper and pencil. She realized she could empower her students as writers and creators of knowledge.This teacher used the grade-level standards as a guide but she expected and taught more than they require. Another teacher, Christi, used narrative writing to teach culturally diverse students to empathize and communicate with each other. This is a good example of telling a story to get a point across.

I am just beginning to pour over these letters but a quick scan lets me know that I need to spend time carefully reading all 8 letters. Here’s a few highlights the editors noted in the letters :

  • Most professional development is disconnected from teachers’ immediate questions and challenges.
  • A call was made for opportunities for teachers to learn from one another both inside and outside school.
  • Teachers need to be engaged in thinking about what they need to know.
  • Opportunities need to be promoted for teachers to “open the doors” to their practice, both literally and virtually.
  • The next president was encouraged to nurture creativity and innovation in teacher preparation, professional development, and research in teaching.
  • Our nation needs the pay scales and social rituals to honor all its teachers.

Hear! Hear! There is much more. I love the way this journal is devoting the entire issue to bring education to the forefront to our presidential candidates. Education has been pretty much ignored so far. This journal is doing its part.

Listen to this excerpt from one of the letters…..
Lee Shulman asks the next president to serve as a paragon of an education person. He says:

I want you to suppport the work of teachers at all levels by serving as a persistent, relentless, and self-conscious model of an educated person.

He goes on to say much, much more but ends up with this powerful close:

I implore you to define your roles as the principal learner taking every opportunity to make your own intellectual and moral development visible and transparent to your fellow citizens.

This has made me rethink what I need to do and that is to do my part in continuing to let the presidential candidates be reminded frequently that education needs to be a priority.

Sometimes I don’t get to things I need to because I think I have to write that “perfect piece” that is just so. One easy thing we could all do is to search through all our posts and forward our thoughts and concerns to the candidates. Many of our posts might just need simple rewrites to get it up to date. I am going to do this. I hope you will consider doing the same. Take that time and just tell them that you want them to know our concerns. Let’s just keep on pushing! They need to hear the voices of many, many educators.