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Virginia Journal of Education

Wise Words

Local leaders inspire colleagues with convocation speeches and new teacher presentations.

Many of our local association presidents are asked to step to the podium at division convocations, new teacher meetings, and other events. Here’s a sampling of what some of our leaders had to say as they helped get the new school year rolling.

An Air of Expectation
As I was preparing for today, I was thinking about the parents and children I have seen out shopping for school supplies these last few weeks. They look at school lists, they look at prices, and they look for just the right binder, just the right lunch box, just the right opening day outfit. In spite of moans and groans, there is an air of expectation, an air of hope. I have also seen teachers in the aisles of these same stores looking for bargains, buying supplies out of their own pockets, looking for just the right touches for their classrooms while they hugged former students and acted as educational ambassadors.

It’s true that one of the advantages of working in education is the way the calendar gives everybody—students and their families, teachers and administrators, and education support staff—the opportunity to start over every year. No other profession has this particular feature. Doctors, lawyers, mechanics and retail workers may not have the same pressures and the same uphill climb that we face, but, unlike us, they rarely get to draw a line on the calendar and start their work all over again. I think we are all hopeful as we start the adventure of a new school year.

We know that parents want their children to succeed. Students want to succeed, and we want to help them do it. We’re partners with parents, with our students and with our community. We make a difference in our classrooms every day. We work a kind of magic as we plan lessons and execute them. We coach students to think and learn and create, but we all know that this is hindered by state tests. We meet our students where they are and take them as far along the learning journey as we possibly can. We recognize that test scores are important, but we also recognize that a student is so much more than just a number on paper.

As you work your magic, please know that your education association is with you every step of the way.

Along with our state and national affiliates, we are an organization dedicated to understanding and then revealing the truth about what a rare and complex skill teaching in America’s public schools in 2013 has become. And, in Virginia, the VEA is virtually the only group who sits down with lawmakers and advocates for education.
Eric Tatum, president, Galax Education Association

Fail, Fight, Quit?
This morning I want to share parts of a graduation speech I heard in May when my son graduated from James Madison University. The professor was talking about life, but I heard a connection to education.

She told them to fail, fight and quit.

Let me explain.

Fail. She told them to embrace opportunities to make mistakes. Without the possibility of failure, we have no room to grow or to learn new things. Inherent in learning are the mistakes that come with it. There is this perception that if you aren’t perfect, if you have room to improve, there is something wrong with you. 

Why is it such a big deal to be wrong? In particular, why would it be so horrible for a student to be wrong about something that he or she is just learning? If you’ve never been wrong in a class before, you should be in a harder class!

We need to get away from the idea that being wrong is so terrible that we try to avoid it at all costs. We need to assure ourselves and our students that it is okay to learn from our mistakes.

Fight. She told the graduates to stay feisty, that one of the beautiful things about being around college students is the passion that they have for so many causes and life in general. Why should it end there? As teachers and those who work in education we need to stay feisty for our students and ourselves.

We need to advocate for what is best for our students. We need to make sure that best practices and our students’ needs come first. We can’t let the challenges like the new SOL tests, the inappropriate expectations and the new teacher evaluation prevent us from doing what’s right. We can’t be complacent or, worse, bitter about what needs to be changed.

Remember, you became a teacher to make a difference. Stay feisty.

Quit. She told them to quit comparing themselves to others. While I realize our test scores are constantly being compared with others, we need to quit defining ourselves by them. We need to quit making excuses for them. We need to do the best we can and use the test information to improve instruction.
Geri Farrell, acting president, Williamsburg/James City Education Association

Are You Serious?
If you have never done this job before or if you have never been on the front line of the administering of education to the young masses, welcome to our world—a world (if you are serious) that will require you to give every part of your mind and body to truly deliver the right dose of love, passion and fire needed to inspire and motivate young minds. Welcome to a world where (if you are serious) you’ll be required to wear the hat of a parent, counselor, mentor, protector, comedian, genius, superstar and last, but not least, the hat of an angel.

You will have students who will depend on you for everything to help them grow and find their way in life, not just for what you teach them but for what you can help them to see.  Ensure that you take care of yourself, get plenty of rest, and be more than prepared, so that you will do great things for the young minds you will encounter.

Deliver your lessons with the passion that will show students that you really care and you want them all to succeed in life. Bring truth with you daily—both in and out of school, and in return, the joy of teaching will shine through.         
Shirley Cordell-Robinson, president, Fredericksburg Education Association

Working Here is Not Just a Job
At the Virginia Beach Education Association, we believe teaching is more than just a job. We believe it’s a calling. We believe it’s a commitment made by every person who reports for duty in every school.

For over 150 years, the Education Association has served those who serve our schools, advocating for great public schools and for education professionals who accept the challenge to make our schools great.

If you also believe teaching is more than just a job, I invite you to join and actively support the Education Association. You’ll be joining with education professionals throughout the nation in support of public education, and your support will help others, and yourself, become better educators and advocates for our students.

Joining the Association is more than just membership. It’s an opportunity to serve; it’s an opportunity to grow both professionally and personally; and it’s an opportunity to lead. The VBEA seeks to work with school administration to continue the success of Virginia Beach City Public Schools, while also working to ensure that every employee is treated fairly and professionally. We actively lobby legislators in Richmond in support of school funding and laws that respect the teaching profession. We also connect our members to a national network of educators where challenges and successes are shared and learned from. We strengthen the education profession.
Trenace Riggs, president, Virginia Beach Education Association

Part of a Winning Team
Each of us is part of the education team. We have different roles and daily responsibilities, but collectively our goal is to provide each child who enters our system an excellent education. This is also the vision of the Virginia Education Association: “A great public school for every child in the Commonwealth of Virginia." We cannot achieve this goal in isolation, cloaked in negativity, and allowing ourselves to be overwhelmed. We need to work together to find solutions, and we need to know that together we can meet our goals and help each student grow and achieve.

Abraham Lincoln said, “We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.” Our chosen careers have challenges and we need to unite and work together to overcome these obstacles, these thorns. We need to be willing to say, “Hey, this is what I am doing to see a student, my class, or our building succeed—would you like to try it?” We can no longer be self-contained entities; we must be united cogs in the machine working together. We need to make the choice to be part of the solution, not part of the problem.

We need to wake up with a smile and believe we can make a difference, believe our role is instrumental in the life of a child, and know that our attitude will affect our outcome. I believe in us!
Joy Kirk, president, Frederick County Education Association

We’ve Got You Covered
Let me start by thanking all of you for accepting the tremendous mantle of responsibility in educating our students. Together, we truly are building Bristol’s future, one student at a time, and BVEA is honored to be a part of it.

“What can BVEA do for me?” you might ask. Well, several things. For one, we offer professional development opportunities. In fact, in November VEA will offer the Instruction and Professional Development Conference—and, if you haven’t been, the resources, classroom techniques and collaboration are invaluable. As an added bonus, this year Diane Ravitch will be the keynote speaker. 

We offer several cost-saving benefits, from car and homeowners insurance to special promotions available only to members. Members have been known to save from $400 - $3,000 per year!

VEA also offers mini-grants up to $500 for members. Our own Rod Stipe, from Virginia Middle School, was awarded a VEA mini-grant for $399 for his Water Quality Study.

Of course, you not only have professional liability insurance but also the peace of mind of knowing that help is just a phone call away. Our UniServ director can be here, working with you within hours.

One of the best aspects of being a member is that you have a voice at the local, state and national levels. If there’s something you like, let us know and if there’s something you don’t like, let us know. Southwest Virginia has a number of people on various state committees. VEA knows that Virginia doesn’t end at Roanoke.
Melissa Warren, co-president, Bristol Virginia Education Association


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