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How Good Teachers Become Great by Jonathan Spear, Chief Learning Officer Generation Schools Network

Unfortunately, too many teachers with potential are under-prepared, start their teaching with the most challenging assignments, and are not supported to learn the skills with which they can be great. Of course, all of this impacts the likelihood that students will get the support they need to thrive. As a result, our educational systems squanders so much talent and promise. Generation Schools Network is committed to supporting teachers. We work to change mindsets, structures, practices and policies.


One of the greatest challenges in education is to ensure there are great teachers in every classroom.  Putting aside the factors beyond the school system's control - the particulars of the family or the socio-economics of a community - the variable that is most important to affecting outcomes for students is the quality of the classroom teacher. 

Elizabeth Green's book, Building a Better Teacher: How Teaching Works (And How to Teach it to Everyone) is well researched and a great read.  A section on the teaching of math was excerpted in the NY Times Magazine section.  [http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/27/magazine/why-do-americans-stink-at-math.html?_r=0]  In her work, Green makes the point that most teachers are still teaching the way they were taught.  To get better outcomes for students, and to help teachers be more effective, we need to attend to the science underlying learning and teaching.  Teachers improve their practice when they challenge assumptions about what teaching looks and sounds like.  Teachers are more effective when they learn the strategies and practices that are most effective and have that reinforced with deliberate observations of best practices and rigorously analyze lesson plans and student work.

Most importantly, Green shows that people can learn to be great teachers. 

Unfortunately, too many teachers with potential are under-prepared, start their teaching with the most challenging assignments, and are not supported to learn the skills with which they can be great.  Of course, all of this impacts the likelihood that students will get the support they need to thrive.  As a result, our educational systems squanders so much talent and promise.

Generation Schools Network is committed to supporting teachers.  We work to change mindsets, structures, practices and policies.  In particular, through our Generation Schools and our Coaching engagements, we work to ensure teachers receive the training and support necessary to become better teachers.  The Generation School Model changes:

·  Mindsets, challenging assumptions about teachers' roles and responsibilities. Teachers take on thoughtful and complementary primary and secondary roles.  They work collaboratively, to build on students' strengths, address challenges, and make decisions they are best positioned to make - about the needs of students and the programs that meet their needs.  They challenges assumptions about what teachers do in the classroom, including assumptions about curriculum, and the use of technology.

· Structures, providing support for teachers in their classroom practice, and with time to learn and refine skills throughout their careers. Teachers are structured into collaborate teams, to plan, teach, assess and reflect on the progress of students.  Teachers have 20 days of professional collaborative time built into their ~180 day work year.  They start each year with a Summer Institute, during which the entire staff can focus on the goals for the year.  They have time within grade teams interspersed throughout the year to reflect and plan.  And, they have common collaborative time every day. 

· Practices, supporting high leverage learning and teaching practices consistently across the school, and professional practices and routines to make the teachers' collaborative time most effective. Teachers are thereby supported to develop their teaching skills. Teachers can also make decisions about students that they are best positioned to make - about the grouping and regrouping of students, about the courses offered over time.   

· Policies, creating proof points and affecting broader change.  Generation Schools Network collaborates with districts and unions to address barriers, real and perceived.  Through our schools and coaching engagements, we are challenging assumptions and policies.  We work to make it more likely that good people will enter teaching, that they will learn the skills to be talented teachers and that they will be sustained over time.

 

Generation Schools Network receives national attention.  For example, we are part of the Ford Foundation's More and Better Learning Time initiative.  We are committed to using time not only to extend learning for students and provide them a broader range of opportunities, but also to benefit the teachers and their capacity to support students.

On this Labor Day it seems especially appropriate to recognize the importance of and talents of teachers, and dedicate ourselves to supporting good teachers to be great and great teachers to be most effective over time. 


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