Reflections on the New Cohort of Teacher Policy Fellows

Sometimes the Facebook feature “On This Day” just reminds me of how much free time I had before I became an educator and a mother. Today, it showed me that 5 years ago this week, GO Oakland put out the very first all-call for applicants to the inaugural cohort of our Teacher Policy Fellowship. At the time, I was a full-time Special Education teacher, just beginning to pop my head out of the classroom to try to understand how the whole system of public education works. I was a first-time organizer with GO and basically audited the Teacher Policy Fellowship that year.  I’m so thankful to Cohort 1 for sharing their thoughts and experiences with me and bringing me to an “aha moment” that catapulted me into education policy and advocacy.  While I stayed connected to GO throughout the years, I never imagined that 5 years after meeting the first fellows, I’d be leading the largest cohort through a newly restructured curriculum.  

So far, I’ve watched the teachers of Cohort 5 create shared understanding of our team norms, consistently keeping their students at the front of their minds as they learn more about how local education policy is made. I’ve seen them in their first “aha” moments as they begin to see the differing opinions of stakeholder groups, the history of racial and socioeconomic inequality in Oakland schools, and the long game of advocating for systemic change.

In observing the current fellows, I can’t help but smile proudly. They are smart, asking the right questions, and are open to the journey that they have begun. This is also an anxious moment. It’s just the beginning of their learning, and I know that they will soon feel the tension of balancing the urgency with which we need change for our students with the reality of the time it takes to build necessary coalitions, lasting movements, and make the correct policy changes that help move towards a vision of exemplary schools for every student and family in every neighborhood of Oakland. My anxiety wanes a bit when I realize, “Yes, these are the right people!” These are the educators who will ask the right questions, consider the intricacies of issues, and embrace the gray area between polarized viewpoints. We are here in this moment together, and that is exactly where we are supposed to be.

What’s next for the TPF?

The first few sessions of the fellowship focused on learning about recent Oakland education history. One of the most informative and inspirational parts of this learning is hearing directly from leaders who were part of the action. In November, the Policy Fellows will have the opportunity to hear from local leaders, educators, and parents about the topics of school choice and teacher’s unions.

Contract Matters Update:

The district and the teacher’s union (OEA) began bargaining again last week. The teacher’s union introduced language to, as stated in an October 10th statement, “give more resources to schools with greater numbers of high needs students.” As bargaining starts up again, it is extremely important that more teachers complete the bargaining question surveys that OEA sends via email. These surveys ensure that the bargaining team has the latest information about the priorities of its members. If you’re an OEA Member, click here to answer Bargaining Question #13. If you are a member but do not receive emails from OEA, email to receive the latest information and surveys. Stay tuned for more Contract Matters updates as bargaining continues.

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