Why Relationships between Policymakers and Educators Are More Crucial than Ever

Principal Kim Hardwick with New York Assemblyman Fred Thiele at Clayton Huey Elementary School.

For most of my career, I didn’t have many interactions with policymakers. I simply didn’t know how to build a relationship with one, and certainly there weren’t any legislators in my phone contacts.

Last year, I realized that all the “noise” on social media made me fearful that the only voices being heard were negative ones. So I decided to invite my local assemblyman, Fred Thiele, Jr. to visit Clayton Huey Elementary School, where I’m the principal. Assemblyman Thiele accepted the invitation immediately, and in November of 2016, he visited three classrooms at our school to observe students and teachers in action.

He visited a kindergarten, grade 4 and P.E. class, and he also chatted with two fifth grade students who had grown with New York’s learning standards for the past 4 years and were eager to share their views.

In the kindergarten classroom, he observed five and six year olds using manipulatives, like blocks, to understand the concept of composing numbers. He watched flexible math groups in a grade 4 classroom, where students were engaged in appropriately differentiated instruction all focused on the same grade-level concept. And he even enjoyed the treat of watching our amazing P.E. teacher, who expertly incorporated math concepts into physical activities to reinforce important math skills.

In our classrooms, Assemblyman Thiele was able to experience the power of an engaging curriculum, aligned to high standards, taught by passionate educators. Because of the passion and engagement he saw that day, we’ll continue to collaborate as partners.

Education reform is a controversial topic, one that immediately brings to mind several other topics that have embroiled debates about teaching and learning over the last few years. While we may not agree on the best ways to improve education, I am inclined to believe we all have a common goal – to provide an education for every student that will result in multiple opportunities and options when they finish school.

That common goal enables us to work together, something that is critical for our success. Fostering partnerships between policymakers and educators is a logical step if we hope to craft reform policies and implement them effectively.

In the immediate future, policymakers at the state and district level will be making many decisions that will impact assessment, teacher evaluations, equity, and access. I hope that they’ll recognize the gravity of these decisions, and use them as an opportunity to engage with local educators, who have a genuine passion for their profession and credibility as highly effective instructors.

I applaud any educator who welcomes other adults into her classroom as a way of saying, “Don’t take my word for it. Come and see the magic for yourself. Ask me questions about my practice and the choices I make to ensure lessons are meaningful, engaging and aligned to high standards.”

The challenge now is for educators and policymakers to care enough to build these relationships. Our kids are worth the effort, and they deserve a network of adults working together to ensure their success.

If you are an educator hoping to learn more, click here to reach out to Educators for High Standards.

Kim Hardwick began her career as a high school English teacher in Brooklyn, and has spent the last several years as an administrator focused on enhancing literacy. She is the proud principal of Clayton Huey Elementary in Center Moriches, New York, which services 700 students K-5.