Last week I was invited to attend the New York Times Schools for Tomorrow Conference.  One of the reasons I was determined to attend was to interject a teacher voice into a largely teacher-less day of a traditional sit and get event.  The representation of large pieces of the educational puzzle were left off the stage last Thursday.  This concerned me greatly.

Here was my response to what could be improved –

The thing I wish more than anything is that this would be more teacher friendly.  This could easily be scheduled during the summer months when teachers have off from school.  In addition, more conversation based sessions would be lovely.  Sit and get for that long was a bit much.  Although I did feel like there was a good amount of time for questions in most sessions, it was largely a traditional model of being talked at.  The issues that are facing the future of education won’t be solved by students of teachers or admin or business or journalists… as separate entities, but bringing together significant cohorts of each and free up actual time for hearty conversations could be a nice start.  Sitting the teachers up front was meant to be a sign of importance and I understand that… but then having so few of them actually speaking seemed a bit much.  It was as if we were there to be told that which we already know… because we are in it.  And along those same lines, more students, more students, more students.  I offered to arrange for students from my school to attend but was politely told no.   This could be a truly transformative experience, but fell short in my opinion because of the over representation of corporate voices over those of the actual teachers and students already working in and shaping schools for tomorrow.

And for suggestions for panels or topics next year I responded –

A panel of teachers and principals from schools that are already pushing the envelope would be a strong start.  I would argue that although KIPP is pushing a somewhat successful model, there is little innovative or future thinking about their approach.  There are TONS of schools that are… contact ISTE for suggestions or Edutopia.  We need to talk about the actual day to day that needs re-envisioning… classroom level conversations.  If we are going to communicate with the leaders of government and business, the powerful intersection is when we all talk about possibilities together.  Not just ‘at or ‘to’.  We can fix this, but it will take a concerted effort to respect all the players.  This year’s line-up certainly privileged one side of this over the other and many educators felt the slight.

The NYTimes has a wonderful resource with The Learning Network and I’m not sure I heard them mentioned once.  They have real relationships with teachers and classrooms that could benefit the overall impact of the conference.

Contact the classroom teachers that are innovating at the classroom level.  Contact the leaders of edtech thought.  Please use your position of influence to bridge the spaces between all the stakeholders rather than widen the gap.

I asked a question in each of the sessions.  And in each of the sessions, at least once… someone commented, well that would be a good question for a teacher in the classroom.  *sigh*  We’re here.  Highly qualified, dedicated, innovating, National Board Certified… recognized in the education community as leaders in the development of Schools for Tomorrow… and yet, not on the stage.  There were 55 panelists – 2 were in practice teachers.  We can do better.