While most of us on NCTQ's staff used to be teachers, it is nonetheless easy for us to get wrapped up sometimes in edu-debates and forget the everyday challenges and joys of teaching. This past weekend, NCTQ hosted a retreat with our newly formed Teacher Advisory Group (TAG), which gave us the opportunity to see our work through the lens of current teachers.
The power of one: An oft-discussed topic in our district policy work is school culture and its intersection with teacher retention. We often think about administrators as the tone-setters. The TAG members, however, spoke about the impact individual teachers can have on an entire school when they feel empowered. For example, one of our TAG members discussed how she created a culture shift in her school by implementing a "critical friends group" with other teachers to reflect on practice. Soon almost all teachers were participating, and it became recognized by administration as part of the school framework. So now our minds are churning: what practices at the district level enable teacher empowerment? Or on the flip side, inhibit it?
The cooperating teacher challenge: We have spent countless hours studying the necessary pieces of an effective student teacher experience, but haven't spent as much time thinking about it from the perspective of the cooperating teacher. Almost every one of our advisory teachers mentored a student teacher at some point in their career, and all of them were reluctant to take on a student teacher again. Teacher candidates added to their workload and often seemed ill-equipped to succeed as teachers. What was more, the teachers' feedback about the student teachers was largely ignored, and even poor performing candidates went on to pass student teaching. The TAG members drove the point home: if we want to ensure that every student teacher is placed with an effective cooperating teacher, we must view this position as prestigious and value their input.
Suffice it to say, our TAG members pushed our thinking on key topics of our work. We're asking them to write about how their experience meeting with us impacted how they think about their teaching. Stay tuned!