Teachers Team Up to Support Teachers On Deck
Celia Gregory and National Teacher Fellows before the Teaming Up panel at the Center for American Progress
When I started as National Education and Mobilization Manager with Hope Street Group in early November 2015, the National Teacher Fellows (NTFs) had just wrapped six intensive weeks of digital and face-to-face peer research on teacher preparation — a topic at that point just about as foreign to this journalism grad as robotics or medicine. It was enlightening and energizing, diving into the perspectives gathered from nearly 2,000 American educators. So was helping to amplify efforts of the four Fellowship work groups that led robust research, communications, presentation and policy/advocacy strategies for the big March 2016 release of On Deck: Preparing the Next Generation of Teachers.
But it was also frustrating, and a little bit dumbfounding, being immersed into these data. You’re telling me that half of teachers did not feel equipped to teach high-needs populations, when our students are ever more diverse and require more differentiated instruction to excel in classroom and career? And in a country crazed by college readiness, most respondents don’t recall learning how to teach to rigorous standards in their pre-service program? How do we expect our students to succeed if our teachers don’t feel prepared, supported and valued?!
My initial disbelief has been overshadowed by encouragement in subsequent months, though, and here’s why:
The NTFs were not satisfied with their impressive data collection phase, nor promoting the findings to start conversations nationally and in their states. In rooms of other dynamic K12 professionals (like at National Board’s final Teaching and Learning conference), and in communion with other stakeholders (including higher education faculty at AACTE, legislators on Capitol Hill, and staff at the U.S. Department of Education), the “So what, now what?” was inevitable. And therefore the Fellows pitched their individual “whats” and “hows” to deepen engagement in teacher prep for a second year, and Hope Street Group took the ride with them.
Polite but persistent in their asks of decision-makers, each 2016 NTF found partners for new projects — research, engagement, training and curriculum design — to enhance the teacher pipeline. These work streams have taken on various forms in the past 10 months, with wins big and small, and also some set-backs. “Big P” policy can take forever to build and be swept away in an instant, a lesson learned repeatedly by teacher leaders and advocates like those in Hope Street Group’s Fellowship programs. But “little p” policy is shaped, the needle moved ever so slightly, by collaborations like these: between solutions-oriented teachers and school leadership; between prep programs producing new teachers and the districts who will hire them; between membership organizations and influencers mobilizing their colleagues toward enhancements for future teachers and learners. (Another vital connection is that of education agencies and multiple stakeholders, whose voices should be evident in all state plans submitted this year for implementing the Every Student Succeeds Act, by the way. We’ll see.)
Just because collaboration is common sense, does not mean it’s simple. The challenges facing public educators and their students are many. Balancing resources, ensuring equity, increasing diversity, teaching with (or without) technology — no doubt a Fellow could work exclusively and ceaselessly on any one of these, as the NTFs did teacher prep, and feel that combined frustration and validation at every turn. But my key takeaway, in the final months of serving alongside this cohort, is when #TeachersTeamUp, they’re basically unstoppable. I think if you read through our newest release Teaming Up: Educators Enhance Teacher Prep, you’ll agree. And we hope you borrow/steal all of the good ideas generated by these teacher leaders, with linked resources a-plenty.
Please also draw energy and inspiration from the national conversation we shared with experts on April 11 at Center for American Progress on “The Future of Teacher Prep.” This archived event and more supporting materials for Teaming Up and On Deck can be found at www.hopestreetgroup.org/teacherprep.
Regardless of the waves made in a given school, community, state or nation, the common denominator in the equation for impact is always the doer: the person opening a classroom or office door, taking the meeting, practicing active listening, following up on good ideas with action steps, and making connections to other doers that will help see these ideas to fruition. How will you join forces to ensure the best for tomorrow’s teachers and students? Share your ideas on social media using #TeachersTeamUp, and thank you for being part of the solution.