The word “informed” comes from the Latin informare, “to shape or give form to.” And that’s what all of us, as professionals, should be doing: acquiring the knowledge that will shape and give form to our professional lives.
Whether we are educators, health care professionals or social service providers, we must stay informed. That means having up-to-date information on the latest research in our field; strategies to enhance and improve our professional practice; and an understanding of the latest technology and how it can enhance the work we do. In addition, we must stay current with city, state and federal policies and how they affect our schools and our profession. As union members, it’s also imperative to stay on top of our rights and responsibilities.
One of my responsibilities as the UFT vice president for education is to make sure you stay informed about the rollout of New York State’s Next Generation Learning Standards. In late 2018 and early 2019, we concentrated on raising awareness; now the focus is increasingly on building capacity.
At this point, you should have had professional learning opportunities to build your knowledge of the new math and ELA standards. According to the State Education Department’s Standards Implementation Roadmap, there should also have been professional development on “how the Learning Standards affect the needs of all students, with a focus on developmentally appropriate practice (including play) and best practices for diverse learners.” Now the focus shifts to the alignment of curricula, professional development and instructional practice, such as student-centered project-based learning and purposeful play. The UFT worked hard to have these elements in the road map; now we need to bring them to life.
If your school is not yet building awareness or capacity of the new state learning standards, there are many ways to raise your voice as an informed educator. In addition to being a member of your school’s professional development team and UFT consultation committee, you may also exercise the new and powerful contractual tool to address paperwork and other workplace issues that violate the DOE-UFT contract. All educators in your school chapter have a right to the training and resources they need to roll out the Next Generation Learning Standards. If these supports are not in place, speak to your chapter leader about next steps.
We worked with our colleagues at New York State United Teachers, the union’s state affiliate, to craft regulations with the state Board of Regents that mandate that professional learning teams at every level — central, district and school — must be composed of a majority of educators. We made a powerful case for that change because we as classroom educators are informed about what works best when designing learning opportunities for professionals, especially those related to the Next Generation Learning Standards.
I find the best way to be an informed vice president is to speak to members at schools and other worksites and at UFT conferences and events. The information I gather from these conversations about the rollout of the state learning standards and other educational concerns is essential when I meet with federal, state and city policymakers who do not understand how state regulations are actually experienced on the ground by our members.
Information is a powerful tool. As a union of professionals, we all have a responsibility to stay informed so we can be as effective as possible in our jobs.