St. Louis "Gateway" on return from Alton High School, Alton IL.

This year I am working up close and personal with four teachers in four states as they get started with a new class of students! All are State Teachers of the Year; all are implementing the Common Core State Standards; all are working with diverse groups of students. I am having an unexpected and powerful experience I thought you might appreciate.

First some background: The National Network of State Teachers of the Year in partnership with The Hunt Institute contracted me to produce four Special Episodes of The Ignite Show featuring the Common Core State Standards. Other collaborating partners include the NEA, AFT and PTA. It is an honor to be helping to communicate what these standards are all about, and the positive impact they are -- and can -- have on our nation's children. I have learned much I'll share on the upcoming shows which we are in the throws of producing right now -- thus my travels to spend time in these classrooms in LA last week with Lewis Chappelear at James Monroe High and yesterday in IL with Annice Brave at Alton High School.

The powerful experience is to be reminded that we all have such a real responsibility for our nation's youth. I feel it as never before. When in LA, I opened the class to help explain what it would be like to have a film crew of four people and boom microphones moving all around them, how crazy it might seem to be interupted and asked to repeat what they just said. Not suprisingly, the students welcomed the day, ready to help us capture what goes on - reguIarly - in that teachers classroom. Then, I watched these teachers so naturally, so professionally, so considerately touch the lives of their students and witnessed authentic "a ha"moments of learning. When a few of these students came up afterwards and asked what advice I had for their life success, it hit me -- these students are truly in our hands!

Think about it -- we as members of every school community, whether we are a parent (as I am of an 11 yr old entering Middle School for the first time - yikes!), or a teacher; a school administrator or a politician, we owe it to our children to listen to them up close and make sure the decisions we make are for their success -- not ours!

While in IL I was asked to speak to in journalism class while I had a break as the crew set up for a different segment, and I cast vision for how we want The Ignite Show to raise awareness and respect of education and educators through the voices of teachers, parents and students - with a focus on inspiring student-centered classrooms. This is my standard "opening" whenever asked to explain what we are doing -- trying to do! Here again I was struck with an overwhelming sense of responsibility when a young woman raised her hand and said "Thank you for listening to us students. We have a lot of things to say. It seems most adults in education really don't care about what we think and all they do is supposed to be for us."

This was a great reminder of the power we all have to listen more to the students we serve, make sure what we propose is best for them, and let all we do be for the students -- their success in preparing for their future life success in college, career and in life! The two teachers I've walked beside on this journey are implementing the Common Core with just such a mindset of listening and responding to prepare their students for life whether through "The Algebra of Bungee Jumping" or "Learning Anlaytic Skills through Literary Analysis" -- they are coaches first. May we all, similarly, listen and serve our students through a great start of a new school year -- and the rest of their lives! Cheers!