By Nancy Fulton, President
Nebraska State Education Association
Sculptor, painter, architect and poet Michelangelo said “The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it.”
Our Association’s aim is a great public education for every student – a lofty goal to be sure. It is a vision – clearly stated in our Mission Statement – of which we should be proud.
While that vision is timeless, reaching that vision is a constant challenge. As we move deeper into the digital age, we must be open to change in order to rise to those challenges. The very nature of our work demands that we be on the cutting edge of progress, and progress, of course, means constant change.
In that regard, educators have a unique opportunity this year. The Legislature’s Education Committee chair, Sen. Kate Sullivan, has invited NSEA to work with the committee to provide input on a visioning process for public education, pre-school through college, in Nebraska. This pivotal study, approved by state senators in April, will significantly influence public education, our students and our work as educators well into the future. I am quite pleased that Sen. Sullivan has sought our participation.
As the visioning process begins to gain steam, I will seek your thoughts and input. We at NSEA are already conducting focus groups with members to discuss and discover the issues and goals important to you. We don’t plan to stop at that. Watch for surveys and other opportunities that will enable you to provide your view of what public education should look like in the years ahead. Your input will also tell us how we can work toward that goal of reshaping education.
Should our priorities focus on smaller class size? Is professional development and mentoring for new teachers important? Does support from parents, the public and elected officials rise to the top? Are fewer test days and more time to teach our top priorities? How about accountability for appropriate state standards? Do we deserve competitive salaries and more support for new, as well as veteran, teachers?
I am certain you have many other suggestions.
Educators must be involved in creation of this coming vision, and that is why I so appreciate Sen. Sullivan’s invitation to participate. Without the involvement of educators, we risk a “vision” of ill-advised directives imposed upon us by those who do not teach. Thus, we need your voice and the voice of all public school educators.
So now is the time for us to take our place at the table with issues like education reform, testing and accountability. It is time to engage members to send our ideas and messages to legislators and policymakers, to let them know that we will lead our profession, that we know what works best in the classroom.
As part of that process, we must reach out and listen to our Millennial Generation colleagues, as well as former members and those who have never been members. Together, we can teach them about the value of membership, we can build a stronger and more effective Association for all. Together, we can help policymakers not only “aim high” but aim in the right direction as they craft a new and exciting vision for education in Nebraska.
When I began teaching, the torch handed to me burned strong and bright. I believe that by standing together and building on our already formidable Association and our already effective public school system here in Nebraska, we will be able to pass a strong and brightly lit torch on to the next generation of educators.
Thanks, colleagues, and aim high.