I had the honor of presenting at NCTE and CEL this year (2016). It was my first time, and I was assigned to sessions about PLCs, Action Research, and Professional Development. To the best of my ability, I connected all three topics by sharing the story of Oklahoma Education from the perspective of a fish-out-of-water state government employee, me. Participating in Oklahoma Education’s four-year long story was exhausting. Presenting a condensed 25 minute (approximately) oral account was easy. I simply had to brag about Oklahoma teachers. As it turns out, I had a lot to brag about. I don’t know with any certainty whether the public impression of Oklahoma is negative, but I feel as though it isn’t as respected as it should be.
I put together a slide show complete with Reaction Gifs, old selfies with teacher friends, and screenshots of news headlines and various teacher resources developed in-house. I recounted the standards struggle that started in 2010, my role in it starting in 2012, the various efforts to build relationships with teachers, and the pushback by obstructionists. It was a risky presentation because so many of the speakers are dynamic and interactive, but my presentation was a lecture, of sorts, driven by narrative. However, I believe it is an important narrative. It highlights where we’ve been, where we are, and an outlook for the near future. As it turns out, it was a shared narrative. Many attendees lamented having experienced or currently experiencing similar hurdles. That frustration unites us. It is unfortunate that Oklahoma had to be the first to undergo such struggles, but we should acknowledge and accept the responsibility to help our sister and brother states.
We don’t have everything we need or deserve yet. But we have, believe it or not, done great things by building a community of leaders and advocates.
The full story deserves a dedicated post. What I most want to share here is my favorite feedback from one of the attendees. I wrapped up the story with a hopeful outlook, highlighting the work of the Implementation Collaborative, and said “any questions?” To which an audience member responded…
I know what you’re thinking: “That’s not a question.” That’s not the point. I guess we are a bunch of rebels in Oklahoma. We do controversial things in times of great need. What’s the alternative?
“You sure do play it safe.”
No one wants to hear that story.
I guess, what I’m trying to say is, thank you for four controversial years of support, Oklahoma Teachers.