Good morning! I am Fran Brock, president of the Burlington Education Association. Let me introduce your other officers, please stand: Andrew Styles, Vice President; Marcel Girouard, Treasurer; and Greg Gillard, Secretary. Also, here are the key committee chairs: Beth Fialko Casey, Crisis Committee; Tim Korman, Grievance; and Bob Church, Chief Negotiator. These folks along with their committees and the building representatives are all working for you!
So welcome back!
Primary grade teachers and paraeducators, please stand and stay standing: You have a crucial purpose. You are the group that introduces youngsters to the wonder and mystery of learning. You are the ones who ignite the candle in each child that will enable them to think.
Middle School teachers and paraeducators, please stand: You too have a crucial purpose. First of all, you are working with young people as they enter that dark and confused period of adolescence. You guide them through the frightening changes that confront each young person at this stage of human life. And while you offer guidance, you continue to nurture that flame in each student that excites the skills of questioning and thinking.
Okay, High School, Tech Center, Horizon and OnTop teachers and paraeducators. Please stand: Of course your purpose is crucial, too. You continue guiding students through the cataracts and rapids of adolescence. And you continue the work started in kindergarten, fanning those flames of wonder and query. But you also work with students as they prepare for the so-called “real world.” You are the final gate where young adults demonstrate that they have figured out how to learn what they don’t know; how to think through problems they will confront as they move out and into the community.
Everyone who works in the schools with the students should be standing, including guidance counselors, school nurses, other school-based specialists and of course, our librarians!
Now is everyone standing? Good.
Look around and realize that we are a team. We are in this together. We all are dedicated to teaching children to be independent, critical and creative thinkers. And know that we can depend on each other when we need help, when we have ideas and strategies worth sharing, and even when we might need to come undone. Okay. Give your neighbor a high five, and take your seat.
What is important for us all to remember is that we know what we are doing and we all share that common goal of teaching our young people to think. It is as the philosopher/mathematician Bertrand Russell once said:
“When you want to teach children to think, you begin by treating them seriously when they are little, giving them responsibilities, talking to them candidly, providing privacy and solitude for them, and making them readers and thinkers of significant thoughts from the beginning. That’s if you want to teach them to think.”
That’s what we do and we do it very well. Don’t let anyone tell you differently. As we open our classrooms this week, we will look out on young people all of whom can and will learn to think! And we will be ready to guide, nudge, prod and humor our students through the sometime arduous challenge of learning to read, write and problem solve.
I ask that you ignore those who claim that public education is dead. As public school educators, we are committed to providing all students the opportunity to get a challenging and rich education. The greatness of public schools is the ability to educate all students so all students are prepared to pursue their dreams and to participate fully in our community. Those who suggest that public schools are dead are wrong.
And those who suggest that they have quick fixes for our teaching that will educate students faster and more efficiently should be greeted with a healthy dose of doubt. Learning takes time and focus. Current research shows that learning takes perseverance and grit. Curiously, Horace Mann noted in the late 19th century:
"Teachers teach because they care. Teaching young people is what they do best. It requires long hours, patience, and care."
So as we start this new year, don’t let anyone rush you. Work with students at a pace that will insure that your teaching enables students to sincerely and deeply learn those skills of reading, writing and problem-solving.
Teachers -- you are well-trained, well-educated and well-equipped to play your role in the education of each student. As a faculty, we have and will continue to light and fan that flame that empowers each student to learn how to think. Consider the words of that courageous young Pakistani activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai: “One child, one teacher, one book, one pen can change the world.”
Stay focused on what you all do best: teach!
Okay! Let’s do this!
We are the educators of Burlington, Vermont. We strive daily to build the schools that Burlington's kids deserve.