The UFT’s “Listen up! The reality is…” panel in spring 2022 was invaluable because there were so many government stakeholders in the room listening to teachers’ ideas about how to rebuild and renew our public education system post COVID-19.
As a 30-year social studies and sustainability coordinator, what I noted missing in the conversation was a request to increase instruction about climate change and environmental justice.
In response to the urgent need for classroom-based teaching about climate change as endorsed by the UN Paris Climate Agreement and Action for Climate Empowerment, the New York Climate Education Resilience Task Force was formed several years ago, and the city Department of Education Climate Education Leadership Team was formed two years ago. Both groups represent educators across a diverse range of subjects, grades, expertise and communities. They are all eager to lead the way toward addressing the gap in formal climate education.
The vision of these groups mirrors excellent ideas raised in the “Listen Up!” session, such as the need for more resources for staffing and mental health services, increased teacher autonomy and input in policy, reduced testing requirements replaced by project-based learning, and continued support of the model teacher and mentoring programs alongside robust professional development. If enhanced through a sustainability lens, all these elements could broaden the scope and impact of climate education and help transform our schools and communities.
Lynn Tiede, PS 362, Manhattan