Raising the Voices of Teachers
Never has it been more important to include the teacher’s voice in discussions about education policy. Changing demographics, changing standards, new technologies and urban unrest all signal a world in flux. Who knows better than teachers the consequences of these and related changing conditions on the learning experiences of children? We must move their voices from the margins of education discourse to the center. Only then can we build on their informed expertise as we chart a responsive course to education reform.—Anna Richert, Founder of Mills Teacher Scholars and Professor Emeritus, Mills College
At education conferences, workshops on teacher leadership or at education policy gatherings, it not uncommon to see a roomful of academics, administrators or education leaders without a teacher in the room. And when there are teachers present, they are often not the people presenting or facilitating. Ensuring that teachers go public with their learning and creating opportunities for teachers to have a voice in the dialogue about education reform and educational equity are key organizational values for Mills Teacher Scholars. Through their work with the Mills Teacher Scholars, teachers have the opportunity to develop their professional voice and connect with the larger education community. Like national organizations such as the Centre for Teaching Quality (CTQ) or the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, we advocate for teachers to be “in the room where it happens” (to borrow a phrase from the musical Hamilton) and actively contribute to conversations that influence conceptions of teaching and learning in our schools.
Some recent examples of teachers going public with their learning include:
On October 6th a group of six teacher scholars participated in the Edsource Symposium, an annual statewide education policy conference that draws school district leaders and policy makers. At an afternoon reception hosted by the Stuart Foundation, teacher scholar attendees had the chance to share important teacher reflections on how what was discussed during the day resonated with their own classroom and experiences.
Grantmakers in Education Conference (Fall 2015): Susannah Young (OUSD) participated in our panel, “Teacher-Led Professional Learning: Academics and Social Emotional Learning.” Susannah’s work illustrated for the grantmakers what it looks like and sounds like for a teacher to make sense of her student’s learning. GFE is the largest and most diverse consortium of education philanthropists in the country.
Inventing our Future Conference (August 2016): Oakland Unified School district teacher scholars Malia Tayabas-Kim, Heather Porter, and Molly Shannon co-presented a session on using inquiry to support students’ academic learning. Juliana Houston and Kathleen Mitchell were part of a workshop entitled “Conversations that Support Adult Learning, ” modeling for fellow educators how to support colleagues to develop their ideas through professional discourse.
Light Awards Convening (August 2016) Teacher scholars from Life Academy in Oakland presented at this summer’s Light Awards convening, sharing their “Lessons Learned” over the first year of their two-year project at Life Academy in Oakland. The Light Awards program has funded the Mills Teacher Scholars inquiry work at Life.
Mills Teacher Scholars Gather: On November 3rd teacher scholars will take part in our third annual Gather event. A keynote by teacher scholar Marguerite Sheffer will open the evening followed by roundtable discussions led by teacher scholars who will share both new understandings and questions that have surfaced from their inquiry work.
Teacher Inquiry in Action Forum: At our yearly spring event, teacher scholars share the results of their inquiry projects and the process that supported their learning. For many teachers, this is the first time they have gone public with their learning outside their school site or district. Our 2017 event will be on March 23rd.
It is important for teachers to hear from policy makers, grantmakers and education leaders so that they feel connected with the discussions and decisions that impact their day to day work. It is equally important that these education influencers have the opportunity to hear from teachers. Ultimately, successful education policy at all levels must be rooted in the reality of our schools and responsive to the practitioners that work on the ground supporting students.