After nearly 20 years of teaching I am convinced that content area knowledge and pedagogy are not the most critical skills for a teacher. We spend a lot of time talking about how best to help students learn to read, write, compute, problem solve, think, and more. Those conversations are definitely worth having. However, without conversations about equity, bias, and structural racism and sexism, I don’t think the rest matters too much.

If it were up to me to hire new teachers (and thankfully it is not, for a lot of reasons) I would be looking for individuals who are willing to reflect on their own thinking about students and families. Individuals who can recognize the structural issues that are hurting many of our children. Individuals who will take the time to question whether or not what we are doing is truly serving all children.

I believe individuals can learn how best to teach students to read, write, and more. But learning to value all children and recognize that our society does not do so is much harder. I want to work with teachers who will advocate for their students and their families. I want to work with teachers who will fight against the systemic ways we are holding back so many. (Fortunately, I have and do work with many teachers who fit these descriptions.)

Some of my kiddos from last year. I care deeply about them as readers. I care even more about them as people. That impacts what I do as a teacher.

As an elementary school teacher I have had reason and opportunity to be involved with a variety of professional organizations. I have attended conferences hosted by ASCD, ISTE, NCTE, NCTM, and NCSS. I have presented at conferences hosted by those organizations. I have written pieces published by some. At any given moment, I am a member of about half of those organizations. They are all doing work I respect and for which I am grateful.

Given my above thinking, however, the organization that most speaks to me and to which I am dedicating the most time and energy is ASCD (as well as my state affiliate, VASCD). The other organizations listed above have a content area focus: technology, English, math, or social studies. ASCD does not. As a result, ASCD is focused on teaching and learning, equity and poverty, global engagement, and more. This feels like the right fit for me.

I appreciate that a larger, international, professional education association is asking important questions about equity and poverty, is publishing books focused on these issues, and is bringing in keynoters and presenters to discuss these topics at conferences. These issues are critical for a significant portion of our children and we can not ignore them. I’m grateful ASCD is doing this work and I will continue to be a part in whatever ways I can.

(This is not to suggest that ASCD is perfect. Nor that the others are not doing good work. NCTE is doing phenomenal work around diversity in literature and equity issues. NCTM is also moving in this direction in important ways.)

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