NBC News' upcoming Education Nation summit will turn a spotlight on what's working in public education, and for the second year in a row, they're kicking off the week-long conversation with a "Teacher Town Hall."
The producers made a deliberate decision to frame the summit with teachers' first-hand experience. In July, Education Nation consulted with several education reporters, writers and bloggers—full disclosure, I was one of them—to find out what we thought about last year's program and what additional topics might push this year's conversation forward.
One piece of feedback was that while last year's event was great, it was also pretty one-sided. Education documentary Waiting For Superman dominated the conversation, and its stars Michelle Rhee and Geoffrey Canada, mostly promoted charter schools as the solution and demonized teachers' unions. Outside of the town hall, other Education Nation events relegated classroom teachers to the audience, so many viewers were left without a clear understanding of what the average public school teacher actually does to ensure student achievement results despite significant challenges.
Hopefully the hundreds of teachers who show up at NBC studios this year will shed some light on what's going on in their classrooms. To that end, Education Nation is also holding a contest, "A Day in the Life of an American Teacher." Educators simply have to write a response to the following: What are the biggest challenges you face in your job, and how do you measure your own success on a daily basis?
The judges are looking for "honest, personal accounts that show a unique side of teaching that isn't read about in the daily headlines." Three winning teachers will be flown to New York City to participate in the September 25 town hall and their essays will be published on the Education Nation website. While it remains to be seen how much this year's event will present teachers as experts with real solutions, this fresh approach certainly seems like a step in the right direction.