Anticipation, Hope, and Opportunities to Support Teacher Learning During Back to School Time
Across the country over three million teachers anticipate or are beginning another school year. As teachers return to school along with over 50 million students for another year of learning, they do so with excitement, anticipation, and apprehension.
Most wonder what's on the agenda of their schools, districts, and states for this year. Some already know that new, more rigorous content standards and evaluation systems are the focus of changes ahead. Some speculate about the new assessments on the content standards that will be deployed in the 2014-15 school year. For those who are well along the path toward implementation of these significant reforms or who have had introductions to college- and career-ready standards and evaluation systems, they wonder what else lies ahead.
Teachers are eager to know if their peers and supervisors will be partners sharing responsibility for the success of every student by offering ideas, feedback, instructional strategies, curriculum resources, and other support.
Worries and hopes
Teachers enter the new school year with a laundry list of worries and hopes. They worry that they will be able to meet the demands placed on them by the multiple learning needs of their students, more rigorous standards, curriculum, student assessments, and evaluator evaluation systems. They hope for professional learning and other support that builds their capacity and confidence to achieve high standards for themselves and their students. Teachers worry about public and policymaker opinions that hold teachers solely responsible for all that ails education. Teachers hope to turn divisive relationships between administration and teachers into collaborative ones that acknowledge how complex, intellectual, and emotional teaching is as a profession. Teachers worry that they will be able to continue the sacrifices they make each day for their students, frequently reaching into their own wallets to purchase supplies for their classrooms and into their own time to design classroom curriculum, assess student learning, meet with families, provide additional learning time to students, and engage in professional learning. They hope for the intellectual and emotional stamina to ensure that every student achieves a year or more of academic growth during the year.
Most of all, teachers hope that they will be trusted to teach students the expected curriculum, have time to engage in substantive and continuous professional learning and collaboration with peers, and feel appreciated and valued for the work they do each day to contribute to the social and economic well being of the nation.
Opportunities to support teachers
To support the promise of effective teaching every day in every classroom, federal, state, and local policymakers must ensure that professional learning policies are in place to support effective learning for educators.
State, district, and school administrators must take time to listen to teachers' identified needs and support them with ongoing, job-embedded professional learning that aligns with both educator performance and student content standards and meets the standards for professional learning. Administrators must also engage in their own deep learning to refine and expand their capacity to provide rich constructive feedback and supports and to create a culture for collaborative learning.
Teachers too must commit to being advocates for high-quality professional learning that is intellectually stimulating, rigorous, and prepares and supports them in their pursuit of excellence for their students.
Parents, community members, and students too must demand opportunities for their teachers to learn and grow by being advocates of school-day schedules and school year calendars that provide time each day for their teachers to learn. When the entire community bands together to support high-levels of learning for students, it is essential that they simultaneously advocate for high-levels of learning for educators as well.
Senior Advisor, Learning Forward