One year ago, I eagerly applied for MinnCAN's blogging fellowship, excited to share stories about my classroom, as well as a few ideas about how to strengthen public education across Minnesota. When I was accepted as a fellow, I was still excited, but nervous, too. I felt somewhat isolated in my views and wasn’t sure that blogging about them would really move hot-button education debates forward.
Thankfully, I was wrong to be nervous. Through the MinnCAN blogging fellowship, I’ve realized that I’m not that isolated, that people are hungry to learn about and discuss education issues facing our state and that I still have plenty to learn, too.
My blog posts have connected me with teachers, parents, legislators and community leaders. Some of them agree with me, some of them disagree with me and all of them have pushed me to be a better educator and advocate.
I’ve realized, too, that as we—teachers, parents, concerned citizens and others—work to provide all kids with high-quality public schools, we can’t afford to work or think in isolation. Whether we choose to recognize it or not, our commitment to great schools for all kids makes us part of an inescapable network. And we have a responsibility to work together in this network for our shared goal.
As I reflect on my blogging fellowship, and MinnCAN recruits new fellows for the coming year, I would like to leave you with my top 10 memorable moments and interactions as a fellow:
10. After I wrote my first post, a stranger at a coffee shop innocently approached me and said, “Oh you’re the one whose thing is the achievement gap, right?” My reaction was along the lines of, “My thing? The one? We need to talk.” And we did!
9. After writing a piece about teacher evaluations, I met with two people who strongly disagreed with my belief that Minnesota’s new teacher evaluation system is balanced and fair. The conversation was respectful and productive, and we found ways to understand each other. Ultimately, I was thankful to have met with them, and was able to think more critically about my hopes for teacher evaluations.
8. After researching for my fair student funding post, I began to entirely re-think teacher compensation models. This led to many parking lot conversations with peers, as well as some dialogue with the C.E.O. of my school district.
7. After the Vergara case, I wrote about my hopes for changing the conversation to one that elevates the teaching profession. I feel like every colleague, neighbor, family member, friend and critic of mine has read and replied to that post, and I gained 50 Twitter followers the week it was posted.
6. My post on class size—which a few colleagues helped me write—was shared by readers across the education reform spectrum, including my superintendent and our Commissioner of Education.
5. My role has evolved beyond just blogging. This summer, I facilitated a lively discussion with a diverse group of teachers, principals and professors about standardized testing. Subsequently, I began to envision how testing could be, instead of how it is.
4. A community member who read my blog visited my classroom to learn about the successes and challenges of working in Minneapolis Public Schools.
3. I got to share my school’s innovative work to promote mindfulness with students.
2. I had the opportunity to travel to Washington, D.C., where I learned some crucial lessons about power and advocacy work.
1. Without my teacher blogging fellowship, I would never have had the opportunity to become a teacher policy fellow. As part of the MinnCAN team, I get to continue to connect with and learn from diverse stakeholders every day.
Above all else, my time as a MinnCAN blogging fellow has taught me that to help Minnesota students succeed, we must all join the conversation, share our ideas and learn from each other.
I encourage you to join the conversation. Apply to become a MinnCAN blogging fellow by Monday, October 6 and you can have a chance to make a top 10 list that tops mine!
Holly Kragthorpe teaches seventh-graders at Ramsey Middle School in Minneapolis, where she is a union steward for Minneapolis Federation of Teachers, a school captain for Educators 4 Excellence, and a teacher blogging fellow and teacher policy fellow for MinnCAN.