In the past, a teacher would prepare a lesson. The smart kids would get bored. The slower learners would become frustrated and those few in the middle might actually learn the information the teacher was trying to impart.
Today, with inclusion being the norm, a teacher is given the unenviable task of teaching all students with individualized lessons appropriate for them. In some schools, there may be support from teacher aides or education specialists, but society demands (and rightly so) that each student be given the same opportunities. As a matter of fact, the Tennessee Department of Education has in their mission statement “Districts and schools in Tennessee will exemplify excellence and equity such that all students are equipped with the knowledge and skills to successfully embark upon their chosen path in life.”
We couldn’t agree more. As the Director of the Professional Learning, my thought was “How I can help educators to achieve the goals of the department? How can I assure that our teachers exemplify the slogan, ‘All Means All’?”
I have been in charge of our annual professional learning conference since I began my job at the Professional Educators of Tennessee in 2012. I decided to seek the help of experts regarding “All Means All.” How can we meet the needs of all types of students who may be in the regular classroom regardless of their disability or station of life? Fortunately, being based in Nashville, I have access to some of the brightest educators in the area. Therefore Leader U 2017’s theme is Ensuring Equity and Excellence in Education. There is a session for Dyslexia, Autism, Hearing Impaired, Struggling Readers, Students in Poverty, English Language Learners, At-Risk Youth and Gifted to name a few. Not only that, we have Maury County School District’s Ryan Jackson, aka “The Underdog Advocate” giving the keynote address.
Obviously, a one day conference can’t alleviate the hard work that is required for educators to meet the needs of all students. But it can point administrators and teachers in the right direction. It can give them ideas that maybe they hadn’t thought of before. It can spark the flame needed to address the needs of all students in the classroom. I encourage all to make an effort to come out to Leader U 2017 on June 30 at the MTSU Student Union. Tell your friends and relatives who are educators that there is something special going on this summer. Tell them to come to Leader U.
Bethany Bowman is the director of Professional Learning for the Professional Educators of Tennessee. She is a former public school teacher. For more information about Leader U 2017 go to www.leaderutn.com .