Last week we blogged about the insights that we recently gained from our newly formed Teacher Advisory Group. We asked some of the members of the group to reflect on the discussions they had with their colleagues who teach in different parts of the country. The resemblances in lessons are strikingly similar:
Margaret Grabowski, six year veteran teacher from Texas, wrote:
The TAG retreat encouraged my colleagues and I to think about how we see teacher professional development in our districts. A teacher from another district - and another state - spoke about the culture of teacher observation in her district. She explained that in her district observing other teachers and providing substantive feedback is the norm. The district has an online system where teachers can sign up for peer observations in their discipline with an expert in a specific area.
In many districts, the idea and process of peer observation is not integrated positively (or well) into the evaluation system. It can be considered demeaning for other teachers to observe your classroom, making it feel like you "need help", rather than viewing it as an opportunity to grow. As I come back to my own district, I am excited to think about policies that we can expand, formal and informal, to develop a culture of teacher feedback that will help us all grow into better teachers.
Dina Rock, 28 year veteran teacher from Ohio, explained:
I joined TAG because I am motivated by the transformation of teacher prep. Beyond being enrolled in a traditional teacher prep program, serving as a cooperating teacher was the extent of my involvement in teacher education. And, to be honest, it can be tough. As I talked with fellow TAG members about having a student teacher in my class, it became clear that my experience was not unique.
New evaluation systems are holding us to clearer and higher standards of student achievement, and I can see why some teachers would be hesitant to turn their classroom over to a novice who may-or may not-be prepared to provide quality instruction. It's our job as experienced professionals to help guide new teachers as they enter the field, but if you end up with a student teacher who isn't ready or a good fit for the classroom - you are the one who is ultimately held responsible. As I headed back to my classroom, I was left feeling like teachers need to raise their voices in calling for improvements in teacher prep - both for the future of the profession and for the benefit of the students sitting in front of student teachers every day.
Based on my experiences in the classroom with novice teachers, I have worked extensively on a toolbox of resources to help them be successful in the classroom. I have seen how a strong cooperating-student teacher relationship can result in a wonderful partnership, and I am excited that I now have a seat at the policy table so I can help transform how teachers are prepared.