No Teacher Is an Island
"As we noted earlier, if we want to make every teacher more effective, the rest of us need to be more supportive. This is not an argument for going easy on teachers. It is an argument for not going easy on everyone else. We must not do to teachers and principals what we did to the soldiers and officers in Iraq and Afghanistan after 9/11: put the whole effort on their backs while the rest of us do nothing except applaud or criticize from the sidelines. Here is how everyone has to contribute.
"Communities: If we want teachers to raise their effectiveness, communities not only have to create an effective reform process that all the key players want to own; they also have to find ways to reward teachers through nonmonetary means. Teaching is a hard job. Unions or no unions, we’d bet that most teachers work more hours for no pay than any other professionals. No one goes into teaching for the money, and thousands of teachers every year dig into their own pockets to buy classroom materials. If teachers are so important — and great teachers are — how about recognizing and celebrating the best of them regularly in your community with something more than a $50 gift certificate from the PTA?" . . .
"A variation on this theme that has been running since 1978 is the Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute, directed by James R. Vivian. It brings together Yale faculty members and New Haven public school teachers for seminars in the faculty members’ subjects of expertise. In the seminars, which meet regularly for several months, the teachers work with a faculty member to prepare curricula on the subject they are studying, which they then teach in their schools during the following school year. The seminars thus give the teachers the opportunity both to learn more about a subject of interest — chemistry, mathematics, literature, American history, or another of many different offerings — and to prepare strategies to teach it to their elementary or secondary school students. They also receive a modest honorarium for participating. The program has enjoyed such success that twenty-one different school districts in eleven states are now participating in the Yale National Initiative to strengthen teaching in public schools, which the Institute launched in 2004. The Initiative is a long-term effort to establish similar Institutes around the country and to influence public policy on the professional development of teachers.
"Teachers’ Institutes differ from most of the programs of professional development that school districts provide and from outreach and continuing education programs that universities typically offer in that schoolteachers and university faculty members work together as professional colleagues, in a program that is led in crucial respects by the teachers themselves. This not only improves the teachers’ classroom performance; it also serves a purpose as important as recruiting and training good teachers: keeping them.
"At the Annual Conference held at Yale on October 29, 2010, James Foltz, who teaches English at Middletown High School in Delaware, said this about participating in the Institute: “Recently my wife asked me, ‘How long do you think you can keep teaching?’ If she had asked me this one year ago, my answer might have been a few more years, maybe five at the most. My answer is just a little bit different now, and it extends from my experience here at Yale ... We talk all the time about how we need to inspire our students, and we do, but once in a while we forget that we also need to inspire our teachers."