Wow, what an eventful back-to-school month September 2010 turned out to be. The president addressed America's students from a school in Philadelphia (the right wing stayed quiet this year) where he urged students to study hard and focus on their education. Michelle Rhee overhauled the failing DC public school system to provide a better education for its students; their parents responded by voting her boss out of office, raising questions whether the "Rhee Revolution" is over.
A series of back room meetings in resorts, airports, and diners yielded a big announcement on Oprah: Mark Zuckerberg, the boyish founder and chief executive of Facebook, delivered a $100 million check to New Jersey's governor Chris Christie and Newark's Mayor Cory Booker to jumpstart reform of that city's schools.
The month concluded with a weeklong NBC education special "Education Nation",
which shined a spotlight on this issue of national importance. And of course the movie "Waiting for 'Superman' " has sparked a national discuss about the future of the once "great American education".
But where in this energized debate is the voice of actual classroom teachers?
In New Hampshire in 2007 then-candidate Obama gave a speech where he told this story of what a real classroom teacher had told him:
"I was talking with a young teacher there, and I asked her what she saw as the biggest challenge facing her students. She gave me an answer that I had never heard before. She spoke about what she called 'These Kids Syndrome' - the tendency to explain away the shortcomings and failures of our education system by saying that 'these kids can't learn' or 'these kids don't want to learn' or 'these kids are just too far behind.' And after awhile, 'these kids' become somebody else's problem.
"And this teacher looked at me and said, 'When I hear that term it drives me nuts. They're not 'these kids.' They're our kids. All of them.' "
There are millions of teachers in America, just like the one who spoke to candidate Obama, who are committed to their students, who have opinions about what works and creative ideas about how to effect change that is based on real classroom experience.
A new organization, The Viva Project, aims to add the voice of these teachers to the education policy debates at both the state and national level. In September the organization launched Vivateachers.org/ including an online forum, the Idea Mine, where teachers can make their voices heard directly by policy makers. In December the first "Idea Mine" report will be delivered to Secretary of Education Arnie Duncan.
It's time for real classroom teachers, not their representatives or their interpreters, to add their voices to the national discussion about the state of education in America, and what to do about it. It's important that they be heard. Because these are our kids, every one of them, and what happens to them affects us all.