Randi Weingarten in 2008
December 18, 1957 |
New York City, New York, U.S.
|Alma mater||Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law
|Occupation||Trade union leader; attorney|
|Known for||President, American Federation of Teachers
Former president, United Federation of Teachers
There is a recognition that Second Amendment rights, like First Amendment and other rights, come with responsibilities and limitations. There is no reason both sides of the gun debate can't support policies that both protect the right to legally own guns for sport and safety, and reduce the likelihood of mass fatalities.
I loved teaching social studies. And I loved starting each year by teaching about John Locke and the social contract. That lesson helped me teach not just about our rules for the classroom, but how, in our democracy, we give up some individual rights to ensure we collectively have the right to live and prosper in a society.
We know that reading to children is a crucial step. From the beginning, babies who are read to are exposed to the cadence of language, and school-age children who read at home for 15 minutes a day are exposed to millions of words.
While books expand horizons by exposing us to worlds outside our own, children also need to see themselves, their experiences and their cultures reflected in books they read. Unfortunately, for too many children, this is not the norm.
Learning should be engaging. Testing should not be the be all and end all. All students should have a broad curriculum that includes the arts and enrichment. Students should have opportunities to work in teams and engage in project-based learning. And student and family well-being should be front and center.
America always pivots between collective responsibility and the idea that the individual can pull himself up by his bootstraps.
There are essential elements for our public schools to fully develop the potential of both students and educators. They should be centers of community, where students, families and educators work together to support student success. They should foster collaboration.
Standardized testing is at cross purposes with many of the most important purposes of public education. It doesn't measure big-picture learning, critical thinking, perseverance, problem solving, creativity or curiosity, yet those are the qualities great teaching brings out in a student.
We all have a stake in ensuring that all students have the schools they deserve and that communities are leading this effort, not being left behind. To do that, we must challenge unchecked charter expansion and the forces driving it.
Where educators are raising and combining their voices, the seeds of positive change have emerged. Collective voice, exercised through the union, is power – the power to drive real change for our kids, families and communities.
A high-quality public education can build much-needed skills and knowledge. It can help children reach their God-given potential. It can stabilize communities and democracies. It can strengthen economies. It can combat the kind of fear and despair that evolves into hatred.
There's no silver bullet when it comes to helping all children achieve. Great public schools are our best shot.
White Americans can go a long time without ever thinking about the color of their skin. Black and brown Americans have no choice but to confront issues of race every day.
If we want to recruit and retain high-quality teachers, it starts with a fair wage, adequate working conditions, and the resources and support to succeed. Remember: teachers' working conditions are students' learning conditions.
When I taught, the way in which we got evaluated is what I used to call the drive-by evaluation. Somebody would come in for 20 minutes with a checklist, and that would be your evaluation. So it was clearly a snapshot.
I'm such a stereotypical female learner in that I love social studies and love literature, and I always struggled with math and science.
It's hard work to ensure that all schools are safe and welcoming places for all children. It means changing policies, practices and cultures; providing school support personnel; and funding programs like restorative justice – not simply resorting to excessive and often discriminatory discipline.
I remember the first day of school my first year in the classroom. My stomach churned with a mixture of excitement and anxiety. Could I do the job? Could I connect with the kids? Will there be the chemistry to build relationships and get the job done, or will I totally flop?
Many schools desperately need caring professionals like guidance counselors and social workers to ensure students' emotional, social and educational needs are met. But proposals to arm teachers are irresponsible and dangerous. The role of educators is to teach and nurture our children, not to be armed guards.
Public schooling fosters our common identity as Americans sharing a land of diversity. It promotes the American ideal of opportunity for all, not just some. It cultivates the civic values of respecting individuals as well as collective responsibility.
I can't imagine my life without books. My father was an electrical engineer, and my mother was a public school teacher. Books were an integral part of my childhood.
For me, the labor movement and public education are linked as the essential building blocks to a strong middle class and a path to the American dream. It's why I went to Cornell's School of Industrial and Labor Relations as an undergrad and then to law school.
High-quality alternative educational settings should be available when students violate codes of conduct and need to be removed from the classroom while still maintaining access to instruction. And there must be social, health and psychological services to address students' needs.
Teaching is a profession in which capacity building should occur at every stage of the career – novices working with accomplished colleagues, skillful teachers sharing their craft, and opportunities for teacher leadership.
Giving children a fair chance to achieve their dreams and reach their potential is everyone's responsibility.
For working people and union members, Labor Day stands for something special and profound. It's a day to honor the deep commitment each of us has to serve the children we teach, the families we heal, and the communities we love.
We have guidance counselors that have caseloads of 500 to 600 children. We don't have enough to help the children.
Kids need time for problem solving, critical thinking, applying knowledge through project-based instruction, working in teams, falling down and getting right back up to figure out what they didn't understand and why.
Rather than support workers at home or investments in public schools, Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan support the Bush-era tax cuts for the very wealthy. They want to hand over our schools to private corporations.
I've worked in public education for 30 years – as a teacher, a lawyer and union leader. I've visited hundreds of schools and districts. I've seen leaders from the classroom to the national stage who have been willing to set aside their differences and do the hard work that's necessary to create real, enduring change.
The presumption of innocence, the benefit of the doubt, walking without worrying – these should not be hallmarks of white privilege. They are human rights – human rights – that should be enjoyed by all.
A rich, robust, well-resourced public education is one of the best routes out of poverty and a pathway to prosperity.
Beginning with the No Child Left Behind law and continuing today with Race to the Top, the federal emphasis on standardized assessments has become so excessive that it has modified state and district behavior in troubling ways.
Mike Bloomberg may be a Republican these days. But he has been a Democrat for most of his adult life.
Merit pay has failed repeatedly, and it's no surprise. When you base teacher pay on standardized test scores, you won't improve education; you just promote the high-stakes testing craze that's led parents, students and educators to shout 'Enough!' all across the country.
Ensuring that we help prepare all kids for life, college, and work in our knowledge-based economy will require a collaborative, sustained effort from all stakeholders – from the president and the secretary of education on down to states, school districts, principals, teachers, parents, and community members.
The American Federation of Teachers has a long track record of working with administrators, parents, and communities to provide real help to struggling students and low-performing schools. We've learned that intensive interventions, proven programs, and adequate resources can transform students' lives and their schools.
When student performance shows increases on test scores, that improvement is not associated with an increase in 'fluid intelligence' – that is, using logical thinking and problem solving in novel situations, rather than recalling previously learned facts and skills.
I've heard from pre-K and kindergarten teachers alike that the Common Core is inappropriately pushing written literacy standards when the focus should be on the development of oral literacy skills. And that's actually delaying the development of literacy.
Sure, just like there are bad lawyers, bad doctors and bad politicians, there are people who aren't cut out to be teachers. But by and large, the people who are called to be teachers are passionate about the profession.
Due process gives teachers the latitude to use their professional judgment in their classrooms, to advocate for their students, and to not fear retribution for speaking the truth or teaching controversial subjects like evolution. As political winds shift in school districts, due process also wards off patronage or nepotism.
Throughout my career as a lawyer, teacher and labor leader, books have remained my constant companion – stuffed into a briefcase, overflowing on my bedside table, stacked on my desk at work. Books have carried me to distant worlds, opened new doors and made me feel empathy, compassion, anger, fear, joy, acceptance – and everything in between.
All working parents should have paid family leave. That's one of many reasons I'm working to elect Hillary Clinton. She has a plan to guarantee workers – men and women – up to 12 weeks of paid family leave to care for a new child or a seriously ill family member.
Parents need a full continuum of care and support from birth to kindergarten that is affordable and accessible – that means full day and full year. And let's not forget that even in elementary school, working parents need access to the same kind of quality, affordable after-school programs!
My sister and I had resolved never to become teachers because the job seemed to demand so much. My mother always seemed to be working. Our dining room table was cluttered with papers waiting to be read and graded.
Teachers make a difference in individual students' lives, yet they do not get the respect they deserve.
You can't be against bullying without actually doing something about it.
When police or security personnel work in schools, they should follow the community policing model that integrates officers into school life, not just involve them when trouble arises.
As a former teacher and someone who has devoted her entire career to children and public schools, I understand the pain and frustration of parents who feel their children are not receiving the education they deserve.
I have repeatedly called for residency programs for teachers, like those you see in the medical profession, to ensure our educators have the training and knowledge to succeed in their classrooms and in their careers.
As a woman, as a Jew, as a lesbian, as a labor leader in a time of great anti-union animus, I know that other people project their biases on me. But it is nothing like the experience of our African-American brothers and sisters, especially black and brown men and boys.
We know taking care of an infant isn't just women's work – so why should maternity leave be the norm when paternity leave is the exception? There's no question that taking care of and bonding with a new baby is just as important and meaningful for dads as it is for moms.
Good tests can help teachers determine how their students are performing and identify the areas in which their students need assistance. Like an X-ray, however, tests can diagnose, but they cannot cure.
As we embark on something as ambitious as the Common Core, educators must be able to teach to the standards with the necessary support and collaboration and without the sense that there will be dire consequences if students, schools and their tests don't make the grade.
The public education landscape is enriched by having many options – neighborhood public schools, magnet schools, community schools, schools that focus on career and technical education, and even charter schools.
Real parent engagement means establishing meaningful ways for parents to be partners in their children's public education from the beginning – not just when a school is failing. The goal should be to never let a school get to that point.
The last thing we need is efforts by some politicians and the NRA to arm educators and allow more guns in our schools.
Education – much like law or medicine – should be a profession governed by professionals. Unfortunately, too many policies, even those that are well-intentioned, come from the top, leaving out those closest to the classroom, who have the greatest insight into how to provide a high-quality education for all students.
I've made a lifetime commitment to the union movement and to public education.
Appropriate assessments are a crucial part of effectively educating students. But they only measure a narrow segment of what kids need to learn.
Teachers need time to engage with colleagues – whether shadowing, mentoring, co-teaching or conferring. They need a voice in school decisions and to be trusted as professionals.