Reflections on my first PRLC
Jonathan M. Gault, TMS
The Opening Session and Dinner with Dennis Van Roekel, NEA President, was a great way to open this conference and give all participants several needed reminders: that we as professional, creative and thoughtful educators are irreplaceably valuable, that we should never ask for "permission" to be innovative and forward-thinking, and most importantly, that we should live by the phrase "proceed until apprehended."
With some training in the areas of workplace social justice, cyberbullying awareness and prevention, and learning about the changing face of special education, I hoped to deepen my understanding of these current issues. Probably the most interesting session for me was a panel discussion, sponsored by Generation NEA (Go Whitlock!). Those on the panel represented a wide array of experience and expertise, which allowed for an interesting dialogue over many relevant topics, such as tenure and bargaining rights, class size, professional development, curriculum alignment and standards based instruction.
In between the morning and afternoon group sessions was a lunch with guest speaker that I have to say, I was planning to skip and take a nap. Boy, am I glad I went, for I would have missed Dr. Yong Zhao (from the UO; Go Ducks!) and his very entertaining and edifying presentation. A highlight from Dr. Zhao - current American education reformers are chasing rainbows by imagining that the prolific use of standardized tests and "racing to the top" will generate drive, and therefore better results, through competing for scores and dollars. I also appreciated Dr. Zhao's charge to remember Jamie Vollmer's "blueberry story" when public education is compared with a business model - we can't refuse the delivery of bad raw materials, but are expected to turn out a AAA "product".
The conference ended on a high note, in that the closing session keynote speaker was Lily Eskelsen, NEA Vice President, a witty, charming, and inspiring leader. All who had heard her before were anticipating a moving and heartfelt message; she did not disappoint.