Teachers are one of our culture's greatest undervalued assets.
The fact that teachers are overwhelmingly absent from leadership in companies, policy think tanks, edu organizations, and politics isn't merely sad-- it's foolish. Specifically, companies that work in education are wasting money and time, bereft of the rich and dynamic input that working teachers could offer.
there is a surging energy out there
A few weeks ago, the amazing team at SXSWedu invited me to come to Austin to tell my story. SXSWedu offers a week of tacos, good beer, and in one of the live music capitals of the world-- along with the chance to mix it up with leaders of the state of the art in education. Who would pass that up?
Not this guy.
I've been fortunate in connecting with SXSWedu. I've gotten to work with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, started relationships with and consulted for various companies, got scouted to speak at the National Charter Schools Convention in Nashville, and traveled to London to speak at EdTechX Europe.
And it's been fun. I've learned a lot, heard tons of stories, and met people who are truly passionate about improving education in this country and around the world.
More than anything, I've gotten the chance to see just how much people want to talk about the paucity of teachers in leadership. There is a growing energy out there-- a movement waiting to happen. It's a movement that I know will change schools, change companies, and impact how people are learning.
Put teachers on your leadership team. Hire teachers-in-residence. Invite a working teacher to sit on your Board of Directors or Advisors. Hire a Chief Teacher Officer.
You want to improve schools? You want to make money doing it? Get some working teachers in your bullpen.
Mike Kleba speaking about teacher leadership at SXSWedu 2017.
Alice Waters wasn’t trying to convince all of us to start eating organic eggs.
She just wanted to open a restaurant that served what she called “real food.” She wanted greens from local garden, beef from a farm near town, and eggs from chickens close to her restaurant-- not from an industry a thousand miles away. In a world of packaged and industrial food, she was an outlier—but Waters was on to something. Her restaurant became a sensation, inspiring chefs around the country helping to spark what came to be known as the Farm-to-Table movement.
We’re on the verge of a similar movement, people. Yes, education is overrun with movements. We’re awash in ‘em, from Artificial Intelligence to Flipped Classrooms to 21st Century Skills Instruction.
But I think there’s an Alice Waters-level insight, something simple and familiar, that could change education across the country.
Study after study says that a student’s success in a school are dominated by two factors: her family’s income level and the quality of her teacher. It’s not the school buildings, advances in Ed Tech (sorry), or even (gasp) the students.
taco/beer photo credit: http://www.martinresortstravellog.com/
New teachers are evaluated on their “lesson plans” which are, at their most fundamental, “activity and explanation plans.” We evaluate teachers based on their students’ test scores—based on the presupposition that a student’s results on a test will show how well the teachers explained curriculum.
But great teachers don’t explain much of anything.
The greats ask questions. They patiently advise students through moments of frustration. They pay attention to students, crafting responses that direct inquiry. They shine the light on a different part of a problem and say “what about that?” A great teacher sees a student’s ignorance not as a problem to be stamped out, punished, or conquered. Ignorance is an opportunity to spark curiosity. Learners don't want answers. They want to learn.
-"Chalkboard Math" Forbes http://www.forbes.com/sites/meghancasserly/2013/02/26/to-end-the-gender-skill-gap-in-stem-add-competition-to-the-equation/
-Rothman, Lily. "A Cultural History of Mansplaining." http://www.theatlantic.com/sexes/archive/2012/11/a-cultural-history-of-mansplaining/264380/
-Zakanova Natalia, 'Fishing Girl"
As a teacher, I can tell you: this model works-- less than half of the time. The days it works are sublime: you lecture, digress, and expound. Your students sit in the glow of your brilliance, they eat it up, light bulbs go on, and the music of instruction plays like a street fiddler in the square. You make the magic.
But when that ain't working for you, when the students are bored, lost, or detached-- these are awful teacher moments. Your students loll in the harsh light of your artificial sun, they list in their seats, darkness pervades, and the clatter of the lecture plays like a rusty chain on the pavement.
This article originally appeared in iBlogAmerica on January 20, 2013. Mike Kleba has revised and reprinted his article here.
In the meantime, you looking for a good time?
Try "Unsanctioned Professional Development," our session on Tues 11am at the Hilton, Salon A.
This hilarious commercial will tell you everything about dope teachers doing dope sh*t. Just like Kanye, only as public school teachers who eat school lunch.
Here's the pitch:
Lots of professional development turns teachers off: it’s boring, management-centered, and transactional. It's "paint by numbers" learning, where teachers attend most seminars and meetings because they are required to.
The problem? Teachers, fatigued by "proving" they are learning, lose interest in their own professional development. But most teachers actually want to learn and grow as professionals. Educators must also evolve and to hone their craft in this ever-changing landscape, but how? Join two teachers discussing UPD, a tool kit of techniques that puts teacher curiosity at the center of a teacher's growth. UPD helps equip (& energize) teachers to learn what they want, how they want.
See you on Tuesday and everywhere before and after.
And now? Pork in some form.
Let's get out there and change the world.
-Albert Einstein, courtesy of Mental Floss. http://www.businessinsider.com/biography-of-albert-einstein-2013-1
-Public School, photo by Public School
“Put your whole body on the board—just lay down and let your feet hang off the back,” Gary from France tells us. “Feel the board with your body.” He’s the fit, charming instructor who gets immediately down to business, his accent both softening his direct orders while also completely melting girls in our group and, Jesus, me, too. “You’re too far forward,” chirps Dana, our other instructor, a super fox from the Czech Republic who calls a spade a spade. With their deeply bronze tans, white flashing smiles, and ripped physiques, our instructors had us mesmerized. We hung onto every word (why are surfers such hotties? Because they work their bods, I learn later, my whole sore body barking angrily at me during margarita medication time at dinner).
In the dappled shade, we stretch, boards beneath us, practicing our strokes. We are told to pop up on both feet and to be aware of how being too far back on the board will apply the brakes while being too far forward will bury the nose. We get safety tips: Dana tells us to keep the board between us and the beach. Gary warns us to keep the tether from our ankle to the board clear of our other foot. “You don’t want to be under a wave with your legs tied together.” Sounds like good advice.
And, in about 7 minutes, our instruction on land is over.
Teachers are injecting value into every corner of our society.
is the Artistic Director of Theatre and English teacher at a high school on Long Island, NY.