Kristal Doolin

Kristal Doolin

In his second annual message to Congress in December 1862 Abraham Lincoln wrote, “The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise — with the occasion.  As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew.”  Although I do not equate any personal struggles with that of Lincoln’s during his years as president, when I read this quote recently, I thought of the parallels between Lincoln’s words of advice and education in our country today.

In my role as Kentucky Teacher of the Year this year, I’ve been acutely aware of the revolutionary transformation happening in our profession. With the introduction of the Common Core State Standards, new teacher preparation and evaluation systems and the ever-evolving role of technology in our work it is impossible to deny the shift.  Unfortunately, “the occasion is piled high with difficulty” and not everyone is on board.  Change is not always easy to accept but no one can refute that the collaboration going on at multiple levels is needed.  We must continue the work realizing that the world, our students, and their needs are changing.  “We must think anew.”

Examples of our new thinking abound at the national, state and local levels.  A quick Google search will return loads of new material for teachers to utilize as they implement the new Common Core and countless articles and blogs aimed at increasing collaboration. Two great examples that I am proud to be involved in are the Clinical Apprenticeship of Teacher Preparation (CAPT) Grant at Eastern Kentucky University and the online lesson-sharing site Better Lesson.

The CAPT grant is a teacher preparation program currently being used at Eastern Kentucky University, Western Kentucky University and University of Louisville.  The program came about in response to the Blue Ribbon Report on Teacher Preparation commissioned by NCATE (National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education) and promotes the use of a “clinical model” for teacher preparation. The program immerses candidates and their instructors in a school of distinction to work side by side with highly effective teachers.  I have personally been involved in this important step forward, and EKU students have commented that they appreciate the authentic level of learning this experience has afforded them.

Better Lesson is similar to other sites you may have come across as it allows teachers to connect and share materials online, but thanks to a partnership between Better Lesson and both the Gates Foundation and NEA, they are taking this to a new level with their Master Teacher Project.  The mission of this project is to provide  free, year-long, high quality, Common Core-aligned courses for teachers of both mathematics and English/language arts in all grades.  Beyond that, Better Lesson was created by teachers who are paying it forward by selecting their Master Teachers from highly effective classroom teachers around the nation to provide recognition and opportunities to those teachers.

Both of these initiatives demonstrate the nature of the innovative thinking that will enhance student experience across the nation. Later this month, I will be attending the Council of State Government’s National Conference in Kansas City, Mo., as a panelist for a session entitled, “Education Reform and Transformation: Fact or Fiction?” I look forward to answering that question with a resounding “fact,” but also with the reminder that we as teachers need the support of our states and districts and the freedom to be innovative in our approach. We also need the freedom to collaborate, grow and exercise the muscles needed to “think anew and act anew” one day at a time.  According to Mr. Lincoln, “Best thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time.”

Kristal Doolin, a language arts teacher at Corbin Middle School in the Corbin Independent school district, was named the 2013 Teacher of the Year on Oct. 17, 2012. During her year-long reign, Doolin will write a monthly column for Kentucky Teacher that chronicles her experience as a classroom teacher. The column runs the second Thursday of each month.