It is my heartfelt belief that the vast majority of challenges that teachers face, have been solved by another teacher, somewhere. The problem is NOT that we (as in the education community) don’t know how to solve our challenges, the problem is
- There aren’t good ways for teachers to talk to each other and share their solutions
- There is not strong teacher voice into the policy making conversations in schools and on the national level.
I’ve been frustrated about this for years (“What do you mean you made this change that only impacts teachers without consulting A SINGLE TEACHER?”), but lately there has been some movements that give me hope.
Here are three education movements that bring teacher voice back into the conversation!
- School Retool is a program out of the K.12 Lab at the Stanford d.School that focuses on bringing EMPATHY back into education. One of their projects that I love is the “Shadow a student challenge” which helps administrators gain empathy for the student experience. They also encourage administrators to dig deep into the teacher experience BEFORE making policy decisions. The two websites linked above are treasure troves of great ideas for teachers looking to create student-centered classrooms.
- The Carnegie Foundation for the Advance of Teaching is leading a charge to change how schools think about making things better (“Get better at getting better” is their tagline). They have been working with schools and districts across the country to empower teachers to make change in their classrooms and then share those improvement in networked knowledge sharing communities. They have a summit that I go to every year and love. Their website could be a bit more accessible for the practitioner but there are some good blog posts and some great videos!
- Finally, there are un-conferences, which are groundswell, teacher drive professional learning opportunities. One type is organized by Ed Camp, who will work with teachers who want to put together an Ed Camp in their own community and will provide some resources to support the event and help promote it. From what I can tell, a teacher can share with interested colleagues anything they’ve learned, aligned to a theme. This is an AMAZING idea and I hope it grows like Ted’s Ideas Worth Sharing has grown. I’m really curious about the structures that would facilitate this going well and would love to attend one! This one is definitely on my radar!
The power of engaging the front line teachers in problem solving CANNOT be overstated! The challenges HAPPEN on the front lines- it’s the teacher that knows the most about what goes awry in the classroom! And ,it’s administrators who know the most about what goes awry at the systems and structures level.
In both of these cases I see very strong top-down decision making happening (administrators making decisions about classrooms, superintendents making decisions at the building level) that doesn’t really involve the people who handle the problem daily! This isn’t just disheartening for the teacher or admin who is being left out of the conversation that will affect them the most- its utterly ineffective!
The solution to our most intransigent challenges already exist. The real question is whether you go find them,
- You can talk to teachers and admins on the front lines, find some cool solutions, and then work to test and scale them, and you might actually make a real difference, quickly.
- Or you can make something up and insist that everyone do it… but that pretty much never works.
The problems and the solutions exist on the front lines- GO THERE. I’m so happy to see these three (and I know there are more!) movements that are pushing and supporting this kind of work!