Tuesday, December 23, 2014

A Teaching Ambassador!

I've been looking at the application materials for the Department of Education's teacher ambassadorship. After all, I am always up to Learn New Things, and I feel that I have a few things to share with Arne Duncan and the USED (Exhibit A: Any of the last seven hundred or so posts). So let's take a look at what would be required.

First, we actually have a choice of two programs. 

For Washington Fellowships, teachers head to DC to become full-time employees of the department (a deal has to be cut between the feds and your employer). This requires a teacher who is ready, willing and able to be uprooted-- and not just to anywhere, but to Washington DC (Moto: Mostly Not Swamp Now). "They contribute valuable school and classroom level knowledge and perspective to the Department, collaborate to provide specific outreach to other teachers, and greatly increase their knowledge and understanding of federal education policies and programs in order to share with other teachers."

There are also Classroom Fellowships. For these, the teacher stays put at her regular gig, earning an hourly rate for the 20-40 hours per month of gummint work she would do. This fellowship appears to be mostly doing outreach and marketing for department policies out in the hinterlands, although, like the DC fellowship, this gig supposedly involves telling the department what you think. See? I could totally do this!

The eligibility requirements are simple enough. To qualify for one of the fellowships, you need to

  • Anticipate employment in a teaching position (including instructional coaches/specialists) during the 2015-2016 school year in a United States school (including traditional public, charter, virtual, military, tribal and/or private schools) that serves any grade, preschool through twelfth.
  • Have a minimum of five (5) years of teaching experience.
  • Be a United States citizen or permanent resident.
  • Be able to obtain school/district support to sign an Intergovernmental Personnel Act (IPA) agreement at the point of selection for participation in the program.
So basically any US citizen who has called him- or her-self a teacher in any capacity for the last five years whose employers are willing to do without the applicant for a year. The complete application will include:

Five essays that will cover

        * Your contributions to student learning, including how you work with your particular demographic. You should have some qualitative and quantitative evidence of your learning impact. I don't see anything that specifically requires you to submit your VAM scores, but I'm sure they'd be acceptable..
        * Your leadership experience. Show some experience that highlights your style, approach and achievements. The USED needs to know that when you start selling, somebody will be buying.
        * Written and oral communication skills. Show some examples of where you have presented about ed stuff or "led discourse." What professional networks are you already plugged in to? It's not clear if blogging meets this requirement.
        * Other skills. "Ambassador Fellows work in a fast-paced and ambiguous environment in which they must quickly focus, digest complex information, and network with a wide variety of education stakeholders." Do you suppose playing tailgate trombone or jazz tuba count here?
        * Interests and expertise. What can you do for the department, and what do you hope the department will do for you. And here's the money quote: "Include relevant experience with Federally-funded or key initiatives addressing: the transition college and career ready standards and instruction; support for great teachers and leaders; turning around chronically low performing schools; or providing access and opportunity for all students from cradle to career." In other words, show us how much you love everything we love here at the USED-- this is the same list of priorities you can find in Race to the Top and waiver requirements.

Employer letter of recommendation

Has to be signed and on letterhead, and indicate that administration is aware that they are handing one of their teachers over to the borg collective. It should back up whatever the applicant said in those essays, and it should highlight the specifics of how the applicant gets things done in the school and is plugged into the community. Is this someone that people will listen to when she starts pushing the party line?

Current Resume

This seems like a low bar, which makes sense because if you know classroom teachers, you know that most of us don't have very snazzy resumes."Resumes are used to help verify eligibility and should be consistent with or able to enhance information contained within your narrative responses." So, don't catch yourself lying in these.

Competition is tight because, let's face it-- this would be a pretty interesting gig, even for those of us who think the USED is pretty much wrong about many, many things. We have till January 20th to get our application in, and you can find all the pertinent information at the department's website. I suspect that, despite my communication skills and my leadership experience (president of striking local) and my professional network (if you're reading this, I'm probably counting you) and my bitchin' low brass skills-- despite all that, I am probably not a good fit for the department. But I bet we could all do a little something to help the department find just the right folks.