An Open Letter to Teachers
Like most educators, I look forward to the renewed sense of hope and productivity that every September brings us.
Students are bright-eyed and ready to learn, and teachers are well rested. Three weeks into the school year, classroom communities across the city, built with care and fortitude, are bursting with potential, love, and a new found familiarity. Teachers, we’ve been fed!
I’m also reminded that the inspired state of being that teachers experience with their new group of students is often paired with a unique set of challenges. What at one point in time felt clear, hopeful, and productive, for some, has already transformed into a raw pile of questions with no clear solutions and endless tasks with little time for execution. Towards the end of September, reality sets in: Teachers have their work cut out for them.
When teachers start to understand and know the work that is cut out for them-it can sometimes feel impossible to tackle. Barriers are immense: no time, lots of paperwork, few resources, scripted curriculum, limited schooling experiences, poverty in general. Fortunately, teachers have an ally: The Teachers College Inclusive Classrooms Project (TCICP).
TCICP provides space that enables teachers’ brains to take pause and reflect on dilemmas of teaching and learning rather than dispensing a ‘quick fix’. Case in point: when I first started teaching, I taught in a high-poverty high school as the ICT teacher across various subject areas and grades. Few teachers at my school had experienced collaborating with another adult in educational settings, and often times, I felt like my co-teachers and I were two ships crossing in the night. I wasn’t afraid to ask questions, but I had twenty million questions. And while the administration was encouraging, the answer to my ultimate question, “How do you provide ICT as a service for kids?” remained largely unanswered. You see: Encouragement is great, it makes us feel good. It encourages us to keep going. But teachers need more-we need a platform, a space for thinking and sharing ideas.
The “How to do ICT” guidance never came from within my school community–it came from within me and my work in one of TCICP’s first inquiry cycles in 2010. It was the first time I experienced “Professional Development” as an impetus for improving practice through the deep exploration of a professional dilemma. During the year-long inquiry process, TCICP facilitators assumed that as a teacher, I was not only an intellectual–but an architect of thought. The folks at TCICP had us all reading and discussing and generating and practicing and trying everything all over again with revisions inspired by research and our own work, as well as that of our peers. The idea of perfection was dissuaded while process and practice were embraced. The work was messy, but ultimately, fulfilling and effective.
TCICP champions the work of teachers. We believe that teacher work typically revolves around questions and challenges, and that teachers can be agents of change within their own school communities. We see teachers as full people engaged in very hard work. We want to support them and all the challenges that lie within teaching and learning. We encourage all those with their lists of challenges and questions to participate in our Curriculum Design Teams, Inquiry Teams, or series of Professional Development Days at Teachers College. We want you to know: We are here for you.
For further information on Curriculum Design Teams, Inquiry Cycles, and other Professional Development offerings click here.
To explore teacher inquiries hosted by TCICP in the past click here.
Kass Minor (on behalf of TCICP)