Voices in Education

Learning to Use My “Teacher Voice" Beyond the Schoolyard

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As teachers, we are all agents for change and improvement. For our students, we can often bring about significant change and improvement in their learning by using our “teacher voice.” Recently, I learned ways I can use my teacher’s voice to bring about change and improvement outside the classroom. I have always known that I have a voice, but I never considered its reach. I had not considered it outside my own little classroom and school world. I had not considered that I might have something important or interesting to say, something that other teachers might find valuable or inspiring in some way. 

How I Learned to Exercise My Voice Outside of the Classroom

Rewind to January 26, 2019…I attended a Better Together California event at Azusa Pacific University’s School of Education entitled, “Amplify Student and Teacher Voice, Choice, and Agency with Digital Tools.” This half-day event was presented by Peter Paccone, social studies teacher in the San Marino Unified School District and teacher advisor to the Better Together California Teachers Summit, and Alice Chen, English language arts teacher in the Walnut Valley Unified School District and a 2014 PBS Digital Innovator. The event consisted of two EdTalk style presentations, Q & A sessions, and hands-on workshops. The event promised engaging and participatory learning using Google tools and various online platforms.

Finding your Voice

It was during a breakout session with Peter that I learned ways to find and amplify my teacher’s voice. In fact, his session was aptly titled, “Amplifying Teacher Voice Beyond the Schoolyard Gate.” Peter is an EdTech expert and the coordinating editor for KQED’s “In the Classroom” website. He shared many resources with the teachers in that classroom, listing outlets for us to share our ideas, best practices, views, and reflections. Some of these included writing articles for Medium.com, KQED’s “In the Classroom” teachers’ blog, or the PBS Teachers Lounge blog. Other ideas involved creating Ted-Ed lessons, or Twitter chats on particular teaching topics. We were all challenged to think about something we might like to write about. How would we title and subtitle the article? What header image might we use?

Write about What You Know Best

I created an online account for Medium.com and gave some thought to a few topics I might like to write about. It was a bit intimidating, looking at that blank screen. I am not a professional writer, nor am I a regular user of social media. How would I even begin? Peter circulated around the room and helped some of us narrow down our choices. Many of us have heard advice to ‘write what you know best,’ so I decided to take that approach. I thought about something that happened to me when I was an undergraduate student that had made a significant impression on me. It was something I adapted for my own use as a teacher with my own students. I wrote a headline I thought was catchy, and a subtitle. Then I wrote the first paragraph or two. Once I started, I didn’t want to stop. I had opened a floodgate! There wasn’t time to finish the article before the session was over, but I was excited about the possibility of having the article published, and spent time over the weekend finishing up. Then, I emailed Peter a copy. He shared it with a few of his contacts and colleagues over the next couple of months and found that PBS Teachers Lounge was interested in publishing it. That’s how “Brain in the Cooler” was born! 

Now that I have had a first foray into publishing online, I am eager to try more new and exciting ways to share. My PLN now includes Twitter, where I have been able to connect with other math teachers to share articles, ideas, and best practices that we find useful, relevant, and enlightening. Via Twitter, I have connected with some of my favorite math people like Professor Keith Devlin and Jo Boaler of Stanford University. I have taken their respective online classes on mathematical thinking and growth mindset learning, which have helped to transform my thinking about math and my own teaching. In the past, I never spent much time on social media, but today I consider it an essential part of my professional development tool kit. 

Broadening My Perspective 

I have broadened my personal network of fellow teachers in my area and new connections have given me opportunities to engage in additional, rich professional development events like the recent Arcadia Innovation Summit sponsored by Arcadia High School. New ideas have come to mind, and I am already planning more writing on some of my interests, such as open-book tests in the math classroom. A Twitter chat or poll would be good for bringing in suggestions from other math teachers, including those outside my home state. Now, I have many options to choose from and I am motivated to share more with the teacher community at large.

Sharing Our Unique Voices 

We as teachers each have our own story, our own narrative, and we are the only ones who can tell those stories. Indeed, no one can tell your story better than you! We have much value to offer our fellow teachers, and much to learn from each other. I would challenge each teacher who reads this post to join social media, expand your Professional Learning Network, and find ways to amplify your teacher’s voice “beyond the schoolyard gate.” The choice is yours! You never know where it will take you! What idea or inspiration do you want to share? 

Dawn Del Vecchio

Dawn Del Vecchio Educator

Dawn has been an educator for 20 years, teaching in K-12 districts as well as community colleges. A graduate of California State University, Los Angeles with an MBA in marketing, Dawn has taught mathematics and business subjects. She currently teaches algebra at a Los Angeles college.

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