Issue 24.1 Raising Our Teacher Voices

Date: August 30, 2016 at 9:12:34 PM CDT
Subject: Response to your Sept. 2016 Issue

Dear Mss Witte and Kajder—
I read with excitement your first edition of Voices from the Middle. Focusing an issue on advocacy was a welcome, and for me, a long-overdue breath of fresh air and hope. Unfortunately, I didn’t notice earlier that you were seeking contributions on this theme for this issue. It happens that for the past five years or so I’ve turned my focus to teacher and student voice. For teacher voice, I tried a number of initiatives. I set up a website and blog, http://teachersspeakup.com. I managed to get the Chicago Sun-Times to run a series of editorial essays by teachers, about one per month, stretching over 1½ years. I created some podcast interviews of teacher activists for NCTE, through Millie Davis. I organized a day of TEDx talks by Chicago teachers, and these are still viewable on YouTube. I put together several panels on teacher advocacy for NCTE Conventions.

I must admit I grew discouraged after a while. There was little traffic to the website (I hadn’t learned how to promote it through Facebook, Twitter, etc.), so I’ve neglected the blog. The Sun-Times editor grew distracted. I couldn’t get more teachers to write. The podcasts didn’t seem to get much attention.

Meanwhile, one of the TEDx talks, by a teacher [Elizabeth Robbins] who guided student civic action projects (much like the one in the article by Jennifer Ochoa) blew me away. You can see her 12-minute talk on YouTube […] So off I went, investigating and being inspired by student civic engagement in Chicago and a number of schools around the country. I discovered, too, that there is powerful literature establishing just how vital this approach is, for teaching and learning, especially considering the cynical and frustrating state of our present social milieu. This approach goes well beyond “service learning” to help students become active citizens working on responsible social change.

It does not appear that Voices has a “letters” feature. However, it would be great if there were some way to respond to the excellent effort displayed in your first Voices issue. Your introductory statement indicated that you want to include discussions and interchange. Perhaps this topic could offer a start!

Congratulations and best wishes,

Steve Zemelman, Director
Illinois Writing Project
www.illinoiswritingproject.com