Give Teachers The Autonomy They Need

The New Teacher Network always has a tasty post up. This one hits home:
Blogs and Wikis: Changing Professional Development?
Posted February 22nd, 2009 by Peter Henry

Well, looks like the rest of the world is starting to figure out what some of us have been saying--and doing--for awhile now: the Internet has the power to transform learning, not only for students, but especially for teachers.

Here is a great quote from Richard Elmore of Harvard University's educational leadership department:
As expectations for increased student performance mount and the measurement and publication of evidence about performance becomes part of the public discourse about schools, there are few portals through which new knowledge about teaching and learning can enter schools; few structures or processes in which teachers and administrators can assimilate, adapt, and polish new ideas and practices; and few sources of assistance for those who are struggling to understand the connection between the academic performance of their students and the practices in which they engage.

So the brutal irony of our present circumstance is that schools are hostile and inhospitable places for learning. They are hostile to the learning of adults and, because of this, they are necessarily hostile to the learning of students. (pp. 4–5)
Schools are, or should be, primarily "learning institutions"; that is, at every point in the organization, learning is held up as the basis and very "raison d'etre" for the schools' existence.

Yet, as we all know, there is no one more isolated, more in the dark, more out of the loop in education than the classroom teacher. Why? Because their head is in the task of teaching kids for 5 hours a day, and that is totally engrossing work that keeps that teacher from being able to learn, explore, reflect on other aspects of the profession, their own life, reality, you name it.

So, that is the problem, and one that we have been aware of for a long time. Believe it or not, this website is an attempt to combat the isolation of teaching by connecting, especially new teachers, across time, geography, experience, departments, etc. I'm not sure how successful it has been, but then again, never a week goes by without someone signing up at this website.

Yet, I wish--it's my hope really--that more teachers, more people, begin to post blogs, comments and generally use the connectivity of this site to feed the movement of greater learning, sharing and collaboration. You certainly can't compel that, but only invite. And the invitation is out there.

I say: Come on in, the water is fine. Where are you? What is your story? What questions do you have? How can this large, diverse, amorphous community help you become a better teacher?

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