Jane S. Bray
This column originally appeared in the Richmond Times-Dispatch and is reposted with permission. The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect the views of AACTE.
As America struggles to recover from the recent school shootings in Parkland, Florida, where 17 lives were tragically and unexpectedly cut short, we find ourselves embroiled in the same responses that surface after all mass shootings. Vigils, memorials, and protests abound across our nation to try to make sense of these unfathomable events and to demand an end to this violence; and there are reiterated cries for stricter gun laws.
This op-ed was published May 14 in the Virginian-Pilot. The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect the views of AACTE.
At a recent alumni award ceremony for Old Dominion University’s Darden College of Education, one of the honorees, author Rodney Sidney II, introduced the guests he had invited. Among them was his fourth-grade special education teacher. The moment was tremendously poignant, as he spoke of the support and encouragement he had received from her. Even more touching was how Sidney described her belief in him and her never-ending guidance.
For educators and those who prepare them, sleepless nights over recent national events have unfortunately become all too frequent. The most recent public discourse regarding the confirmation of the new U.S. Secretary of Education has certainly contributed to our level of concerns. In a recent op-ed I wrote that was published in The Virginian-Pilot, “Educational Objects in the Mirror,” I asked if perhaps these events are distracting us from our real worries. As dean of the Darden College of Education at Old Dominion University (VA), I realize that what really keeps me up at night is my state and local concerns – especially the growing shortage of teachers.
The need for more teachers is a cry that I hear on a daily basis from local schools. Recently, I was aghast to find out that in my state, the Commonwealth of Virginia, elementary teachers are now included on the shortage list. Those of us in the profession recognize the significance of the state’s shortage of elementary teachers. If that group of new professionals is diminishing, we really do have some sleepless nights ahead of us.
Many of us growing up with siblings remember being told to “keep your eyes on your own plate” when issues arose or squabbles began. Those words come to my mind when reflecting on the current distractions hounding teacher education. Even as we actively promote the need for educators to think and act as one profession and to engage with various external groups, we also must not forget to mind our own business.
In addition to the uncertainty around the outcome of today’s highly contentious national election, many other factors are competing for our attention and causing us anxiety. The teacher preparation program regulations are now official, and so is the Every Student Succeeds Act. The nation is rapidly moving toward a major teacher shortage, and despite our very best efforts, we have not been able to make a significant dent in diversifying the profession. Our many critics continue to share their views on the state of university-based teacher preparation programs, and our national-level accrediting agency is still working to rise to the level it should in order to assist programs in meeting standards and improving their work. To my mind, we all could benefit from Mom’s mantra: Keep your eyes on your own plate.
The recent passing of Muhammad Ali was a sad time for many. Although I was not particularly a boxing fan, I count myself among the millions of individuals around the world who were significantly impacted by Ali’s teachings. As educators and teacher educators, we stand to benefit from discussing and embracing the steadfast resolve shown by this great legend.
My fascination and admiration with Ali began with a personal encounter while I was attending college in Pennsylvania. The champ trained for some of his boxing matches in Deer Lake, PA. Upon a Saturday night whim, a group of friends and I decided to visit his training camp. We arrived there not realizing that there were actually regular visiting hours—and unfortunately, we had missed them.