Just days before the school year ended, four courageous Indiana educators joined together to create an unforgettable experience. Emily Dalgleish, Jessica Schenkel, April Lyons, and Janet Day--all teachers at Klondike Elementary school--welcomed two volunteers into their classrooms as aides for the entire school day, from the early morning staff meeting until the buses pulled away to take children home. Why was this special? The two volunteers were prominent legislators, powerful voices that influence education policy in the state of Indiana.
Emily, Jessica, April, and Janet differ in teaching experience, age, and personality. What they share in identical portions, though, is a love for what they do. They love teaching so much that they willingly made themselves vulnerable by hosting two state leaders, but not just hosting them: having them work with students, minute after minute, hour after hour, lesson after lesson. One child at a time, the students in the host classrooms opened the eyes of the legislators...and the teachers had their eyes opened too as they watched the unfolding of what they can easily take for granted in the hurried pace of a school day: the magic of education.
The two legislators were courageous too. Not mandated to take part in this experimental program, Representatives Behning and Fine gave up their day with the purpose of learning what happens in schools daily. No assistants, photographers, or media came with them...they drove to the school on their own and did everything asked of them throughout the day, only meeting with the press after the last bus pulled out of the parking lot. They were impressed, humbled, joyful, concerned, energized, and glad. In short, they learned what learning looks like. These politicians were willing to step into a role far outside of their comfort zone, and they won't forget what they experienced, especially when they sit in the Statehouse and consider the next legislation that will affect the classrooms at Klondike Elementary School and throughout the state.
Six people, one very important day. It comes down to this for me, the proud coordinator of these doings: "We belong to each other," as Mother Teresa said. So, if teachers, students, administrators, legislators, and community members are all intertwined, then we owe it to ourselves to break down barriers of misconception, blame, and foible. Only when we own the mission to widen our vision can we see where education has been, is going, and needs to go. That is a vision I want to chase and chase and chase.
Read an article about this special day here: