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What If It Took 13 Years to Become a Teacher?

It takes 13 years to become a doctor. What if we had the same trajectory for becoming a teacher.

I am a teacher and my older sister Renée is a gastroenterologist. She studied molecular and cell biology for four years as an undergraduate and then went to medical school for four years. Directly after, she did a three-year residency and then a two-year fellowship. After 13 years of schooling, hands-on learning, and guidance from experienced and board-certified practitioners, she was prepared—and allowed—to practice as a physician. What would our society be like if we created the same type of training trajectory for teachers?

I recently ran into a former student in a New York City subway station. I hadn't seen him in four years and was excited to learn that he had been accepted into the city's premier performing arts high school as a theater major. I was fortunate to teach him at an arts elementary school where he had access to dance, music, visual art, and theater classes every week. When we reconnected on that subway platform, he shared how his early exposure to the arts had a powerful impact on him. Imagine if all students had access to a well-rounded education that exposed them to a diversity of experiences.

Last month I spent an entire weekend in a middle school library with a group of fellow National Board Certified Teachers. We were all being trained to mentor our colleagues through the National Board Certification process. It's a lot to ask of teachers to spend their only two free days out of the week at a school working with other teachers, but the renewed energy we all felt once we departed that Sunday afternoon was electric. How do we create the space for more teachers to have regular opportunities for professional growth and development—without having to give up their weekends?

As an educator, I think a lot about these questions and why our system works for some, but not for others. I wonder what role I have as a teacher in fixing a system that sometimes seems broken beyond repair. I reflect on how inspired I feel when I'm in a room with other passionate and determined teachers, families, and students who are committed to creating positive change. I know that we can provide an engaging, relevant, and challenging education for all of our students; at the same time, I know that I can't do it alone. Our community must come together to create substantial and sustainable change. I am excited that we'll be able to do just that on March 14-15, 2014, in our nation's capital at the Teaching and Learning 2014 Conference.

The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards is presenting the conference, which will provide a unique opportunity for classroom teachers and other educators to network with each other and connect with advocates and policy makers to shape education in innovative and bold new ways. Teaching can be an incredibly isolating profession. Too often, we greet our students, close our doors, and teach on our own. T&L 2014 will bring together educators who work in diverse settings and communities to celebrate their work and envision what a quality PreK-12 education looks like for all students. We don't have to go at this alone.

If, like me, you wonder how we ensure that all teachers who come into the profession are learner-ready on day one, this conference is for you. If you want to ensure that all students have a well-rounded education that sets them up for success, this conference is for you. If you want to build not only your knowledge but your educator network, this conference is for you. If you want to be inspired and inspire others, this conference is for you.

I’ll be at Teaching and Learning 2014 and I hope you'll join me.

Creative Commons photo from Flickr user audiolucistore

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