Friday, November 16, 2007

Telling Our Story

It's a common observation (complaint, really) that teaching can be a very isolating, atomized profession. So it was a pleasure this morning to spend about 30 minutes chatting with my principal and our social studies teacher, as the three of us were free at the same time.

This does not occur outside of rushed staff meetings in "regular" schools. We currently have some extra time on our hands (very much needed "extra" time) since Units 1 and 4 are combined. This is one of the reasons I have been able to bring in guests and such--the very "extras" which bring a curriculum to life. Anyway, we shared about students and some of the ideas we have to problem solve regarding finding resources, transitioning kids back to their home schools and so on. One result of such "chats" is that my colleague has probably identified a donor for laptops for each kid! I cannot overstate how exciting this is (I had to pry my girls off the laptops and away from their Freedom Writers Diary final essays today).

Teachers need to tell their story--first to each other and then to the public, who tends to think it knows what teaching must be like whether or not this is true. These productive conversations need to be firstly recognized as such and secondly prioritized, in my view, by educational leaders. What might this look like in implementation? For one, let's carve out real time for teachers to collaborate. Yes, this probably will mean a lighter teaching load. That in turn means we need more schools and more teachers, and that will likely mean more funding (unless a particular state our country is especially nontransparent or wasteful of their resources). I would also challenge us (not sure who I mean by "us" really) to think along the lines of how we literally design the building of high schools! That is, schools should include a SPACE for productive collaboration and research. I fear we are in the 21st century building on and tinkering with an industrial era 18th century model. This is one of the major reasons why I don't think we can "get there from here."

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