When New Yorkers say that 90 degrees is sweltering, I’ll no longer look at our weather map of triple-digit temperatures and scoff.
Here, we go from an air conditioned house to an air conditioned car to an air conditioned workplace.
In New York City at an education seminar this past weekend, I went from an air conditioned hotel to a subway station more appropriately referred to as a sauna, then up the stairs to conquer a few more blocks of pavement before reaching my air conditioned destination.
All with my laptop bag on my shoulder. So heat is all relative. This is one of the things I learned at the Hechinger Institute’s seminar for new education reporters.
Lifestyle differences aside, I learned an incredible amount about reporting on education. I was an eager student for three days, absorbing everything I could from the speakers and taking copious notes for everything I could possibly need to review later on.
I want to share a few interesting notes with you.
Oklahoma singled out
First, Oklahoma got a shout-out in a session about prekindergarten.
Albert Wat with Pre-K Now cited the Sooner State in his presentation for having at least 70 percent of eligible students enrolled statewide. We’re one of only three states (Georgia and Florida are the others) to enroll more than 50 percent of all 4-year-olds.
He specifically talked about Tulsa, where a study showed that all races of students gained from one year of enrollment, and noted that Oklahoma pre-K teachers are paid equivalent to K-12 teachers, which he said doesn’t often happen.
A few degrees of separation
There was another Oklahoma tie in the presentation about academic rigor, even if by a stretch.
One of the two presenters was Jerry Weast, superintendent of Montgomery County Schools.
If that school district sounds familiar, it’s because that’s the last place John Porter worked before moving from Maryland to Oklahoma for his abbreviated tenure as superintendent of Oklahoma City schools.
Working in uni(s)on
Another highlight was hearing from Randi Weingarten, who was elected president of the American Federation of Teachers just five days earlier.
Weingarten advocated for “real collaboration” — politically and practically.
Politically, that means doing reform with teachers, not to teachers, she said. And practically, she’d like to see a collaboration of services that put after-school enrichment, medical clinics and parent help in the school building.
‘Physicians of the mind’
During the Q&A afterward, I asked Weingarten what she thought the union’s role is in recruiting enough teachers in the first place.
“In this instance, money does matter a lot,” she answered. After boosting starting teacher salaries in New York City by more than $5,000 in 2005, the hiring halls were filled and the number of uncertified teachers fell from 17 to 2 percent, she said.
Teachers want to be treated as professionals in their quest to better the lives of their students and the institutions in which they work, she said, adding that “teachers are physicians of the mind.”
I’m thankful for the opportunities I had to learn from and network with experts and colleagues across the nation, and I can’t wait to start putting all my newfound story ideas and tips to work.
It was all made possible by the Hechinger Institute on Education and the Media at Columbia University’s Teachers College, which is supported by various philanthropies, including the well known Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Oh, and I’m also thankful I won’t have to wait in underground, un-air conditioned subway stations again any time soon.