Teacher convention, Day 2: Delegates push back

Teachers meet after Friday's session to make last-minute changes, based on feedback.

The first-ever Oakland Teacher Convention took an interesting turn this afternoon (or maybe, before then) when some of the 200 delegates expressed frustration and disappointment with today’s sessions, drawing hearty applause.

The discontent was strong enough to cause the event organizers on the Effective Teaching Task Force to change the plan for Saturday. (That’s what they’re doing in the above photo.)

From what I heard, there was a lot of talking to teachers — rather than with teachers — about the district’s various task forces, during morning sessions designed to provide context. In the afternoon, teachers were asked to review the California Standards for the Teaching Profession (Side note: Some of this was through “pair shares.” Is it a common practice to use k-12 teaching terminology and exercises for the teachers, themselves? If so, why is that? Do you find it helpful or patronizing?), and to propose Oakland-centric changes to those standards. Some of the small group sessions apparently grew testy, although not the one I observed.

At the end of the day, sensing the temperature in the room was high, organizers scrapped plans to share some of the work from the previous session and opened the floor for people to vent. Some said they felt misled, thinking they were coming to the convention to have deep discussions about teaching and the needs of their schools when even the limited time for dialogue felt constrained and rushed. Others said they were confused about the purpose of the convention: Were they going to have anything to take back to their schools when it ended?

Some teachers chimed in, saying it was important to keep going — that this was just the beginning. “I think we hit the wall today, and that’s OK, ” said Sue Scott, a veteran teacher from Joaquin Miller. Now, she said, “We go to the other side.”

Bri Moore, a first-year teacher and Oakland native who came to OUSD through Teach Tomorrow in Oakland, told the group that she came to this convention to learn from some of the district’s best teachers. “What I’m getting is a lot of negativity,” she said. “What I need from you is not the negativity. What I need is to share your craft. What I need from you is your knowledge and your resources.”

“I want to encourage everybody to still keep your hearts open,” said Betty Olson-Jones, OEA president and co-chair of the teaching task force, which organized the three-day event. “I want you all to honor yourselves for speaking up and saying, `This is not what I came for.'”

A couple dozen people stayed afterward to regroup and plan for the next day. Everyone was invited to do so. A discussion about working conditions was already on tomorrow’s agenda, but now it sounds like there will be opportunities for teachers throughout the day to talk about what’s working in their schools, what’s not, what they need from the district, etc. And, at the end, to set priorities for the district and talk about how the work will continue after the convention ends.

Delegates: What has your experience been like so far?┬áIn the spirit of openness, I’d like to ask delegates to use their full names when they write about the convention.

Katy Murphy

Education reporter for the Oakland Tribune. Contact me at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com.