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Guest Editorial

Share Just One Thing

By Jeff Charbonneau

During the 12 years that Charbonneau has
taught at Zillah High School in Zillah, Wash.,
the school has gone from having no science or
engineering curriculum, no technology classes
and limited computer resources, to high
enrollment and a flow of new teachers to help
fill demand.

During the 2013–2014 school year I am out of the classroom, serving as the National Teacher of the Year. I have been all over the country and even visited a few others (China and Japan).

Almost everywhere I go, I get asked what we need to do to “fix” education. The feeling is the system is broken—that it simply doesn’t work.

While I understand that many life-impacting education issues still need to be solved, I refuse to join the chorus that would label us as broken.

No, I am not in denial. I am a teacher. And I know that labeling kids as broken only breaks them down even more. So I won’t do it, and I won’t stand by others who do it, either.

 When a student comes into my classroom, the first thing I do is build them up. I want to build a positive relationship with each student to demonstrate that I am a partner in the learning process. Then, I work with the student on improvements. All across the country, my fellow teachers are doing the same.

 I have watched teachers transform their classrooms into magical worlds of discovery—covering walls, ceiling, and floors with student-created posters, models, and projects. I have seen 8-year-olds produce videos that would rival sci-fi movies of the 1980s. Some 16-year-olds create films that are so advanced they surpass movies that are out today. I have listened to students discuss, debate, and dissect pieces of literature so well that you would have thought it was a room of Nobel Laureates.

 I have seen teachers collaborate in person, online, in real-time, and on their own time. I have seen governors and senators marvel at what students can do.
I have seen what education looks like in this country from the classroom level and from the lawmakers’ tables.

What I have seen is there is far more positive and outstanding teaching and learning than can be described in this space, and certainly more than what is being shared on a regional, state, or national level. It is time for the real message of education to be heard.

We are a nation that strives to teach children of all backgrounds and abilities to be successful, no matter the circumstances. That’s what we do. We are not perfect, but we do have successes that must be shared.

 It is time for teachers to teach our friends, families, and communities about what we are doing right in education. Imagine if every one of the 3 million public education teachers in the U.S. shared just one thing that went well in their school today? Imagine if they shared that story with five others, maybe even 10. Imagine how it would change the nation’s conversation about public education.

Follow Jeff on Twitter @Jeffcharbonneau

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