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Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Teachers Connected by a Common Passion To Do What's Best for Kids

August 18, 2015

Throughout the week, Bill and Melinda Gates are celebrating teachers. Today, Melinda is spotlighting time she spent with teachers at the Elevating and Celebrating Effective Teaching and Teachers convening in Seattle last month.  Head to GatesNotes.com for more. 

I want my students to know how remarkable they are. I strive to instill a confidence in my students that they might not have had when they first entered my classroom: a confidence that allows them to achieve their goals, take on the world with tenacity and grace, and inspire others to do the same.

 

Similar to how my students feel on their first day, a year and a half ago, I  walked into a situation that was simultaneously exhilarating and petrifying when I attended the national ECET2 convening (Elevating and Celebrating Effective Teaching and Teachers) in Snowbird, Utah. I found myself face-to-face with 300 of the brightest and most effective teachers from around the country. Palms sweaty, proverbial butterflies in my stomach, I was riddled with feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt. I was an imposter.

 

As the convening began, I was cautious in my approach and reflective in my learning. I took pages upon pages of notes on using social media to engage students and amp up learning the in classroom. I learned about ways to seamlessly integrate literacy skills into history, math, and science. I tweeted as fast as my little thumbs could--dozens of inspiring sound-bites spoken by the teachers leading each breakout session.

 

Tears streamed down my face listening to keynote speakers tell heart wrenching stories of just how much of an impact each and every one of their students has on their lives. “Me too,” I mouthed as one speaker described how each year he tells his elementary students that if they invite him, he’ll be there cheering them on when they walk across the stage years later to collect their high school diplomas.

 

In that moment I realized that I did belong in that space and that space, in fact, was exactly where I needed to be.

 

The feeling was palpable; at ECET2 we were all connected by our passion to do what’s best for kids. Everyone in that room was committed to both building relationships with the students we see every day and providing them with the best instruction possible.

 

Over the next few days I became more comfortable and even more self-assured knowing I was among peers. I took fewer notes and instead focused on engaging in conversations with those around me. It’s those conversations, and the relationships that were built, many of which I still rely on today, that helped me grow. I was empowered and, in that moment, I realized again that I was not all that much different from my students. Some of my favorite moments of being a teacher are those in which I see my students transition from learner to leader. On the last day of ECET2 Snowbird I was transformed. My head was spinning with ideas and resources; I couldn’t wait to get back in the classroom.

 

With the determination to spread the ECET2 experience to teachers in my home network, along with the time and effort of amazing teacher leaders who hopped on this journey with me, ECET2 Puget Sound was born. Earlier this month, over 100 teachers were elevated and celebrated at the second regional convening.

 

Through ECET2, thousands of teachers across the country are given the opportunity to collaborate with each other through meaningful teacher-to-teacher professional learning. The relationships built are powerful and long lasting. After an ECET2 event, teachers walk away with far more than the acquisition of new teaching strategies and a handful of useful resources.

 

I walked away with a network of educators who helped me develop a capacity for leadership within myself that I never knew I was capable of. I walked away a better teacher. When educators have the opportunity to work together in meaningful ways and experience teacher-led professional learning, more students will succeed.

 

I have remarkable students. I know this even before they step foot in my room. Through authentic learning experiences, collaboration, and the utmost emphasis on the relationships I build with them, by the time they leave my room on that last day in June, they know it too. Knowing that my journey in teacher leadership looks strikingly similar, makes me that much more passionate about our work together.

 
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