How Do Teachers Really Learn? -- THE TEACHERS EDITION -- May 26, 2016

The Teachers Edition

What Teachers Are Talking About This Week

May 26, 2016  |  Sign up to receive The Teachers Edition.

King Meets with Teacher Leaders, Seeks to Elevate Profession


At a Tea for Teachers event held last week, Secretary John King convened top teacher leaders from schools around the country, consistent with his priority of elevating the teaching profession. Among those in attendance were teachers at teacher-run schools, principals who empower their teachers, and a participant at a recent Teach to Lead summit. On teacher leadership, King has said, "We don't just want educators to be part of the necessary change -- we need them to lead it." 



Jeff Austin was on his school's design team and now serves as the coordinator and economics and government teacher at Social Justice Humanitas Academy in Los Angeles. One of the teacher leaders at last week's Tea for Teachers, he describes what it looks like when teachers "have the power and autonomy to find and implement solutions" in this entry on our Homeroom blog. "Instead of pushing ideas down to classrooms, we need leaders outside of the school to support teacher-inspired and teacher-powered innovation," he writes.

The 14 Most Innovative Schools in America Named

Every so often, doom-and-gloom stories of our students falling behind those in other countries come along. But one bright spot in our education system, according to TechInsider, is how some of the most cutting-edge learning takes place on U.S. soil. Indeed, on its list of the 14 most innovative schools are an Arizona school that gets all its energy from solar power, a California school that allows kids to pursue passion projects for 20 percent of classtime, and a school where students travel the world for "place-based learning activities" in places like Costa Rica and Greece

kid scientists at white house

Obama Wants Young Scientists To Be Advisers

When President Obama met Baltimore nine-year-old Jacob Leggette at the White House Science Fair, Leggette asked if Obama was in need of some kid science advisers. Obama, a champion for engaging young people in science and technology, liked the idea. Now he wants to hear your students' ideas about what they think is important in science and technology. Encourage your students to submit ideas on important science, innovation, and technology issues and check out Leggette's 3D printed projects, including the bubble wand pictured here (Dance, Baltimore Sun).  

How Do Teachers Really Learn?

While teachers are passionate about learning and improving their craft, traditional professional development can lead teachers to roll their eyes. The negative reaction, asserts Mississippi teacher Renee Moore, happens when that training is done to teachers instead of with or by them. Moore and a group of fellow teachers affiliated with the Center for Teaching Quality came up with a list of principles of good P.D., including relying on teacher-led teams to plan P.D. and making use of technology that enhances teacher collaboration across levels, subject areas, and schools.


Minn. Principal Couldn't Find Characters Who Look Like Her Students. So She Created Them.

When Minnesota Principal Tammy Wilson was looking for a book featuring a character that looks like her students, she couldn't find one. So she wrote her own. Now, Through My Eyes, is published and some of Wilson's Somali students are seeing their own stories reflected in the main character, Zamzam, who moves to America. In this interview with Education Week, Wilson describes the book's plot and talks with her students about the ways in which they connect with the main character.

Why May is The Cruelest Month for Teachers

Veteran California English teacher David B. Cohen reflected in an Education Week blog post about why May can be the toughest month for teachers (only two more May school days!). As the days get longer and hotter, each day brings a "final something - final chance to submit make up work, final performance, final game, final publication, final exam." Teachers also: 

  • Look back on students' progress, final assessments, graduations, retirements
  • Look ahead at new class lists, new classrooms, new curricula, and new hires
  • Hold on to hopes of getting to the end of a unit; rules; our sanity

To Help Kids Thrive, Coach Their Parents

A major way to improve children's opportunities for success is by focusing not on the children themselves, but rather on the attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors of the adults who surround them, argues Paul Tough in The New York Times. He draws on a study from Jamaica that finds that kids who were subject to home visits where researchers trained their parents in supporting them are earning an average of 25 percent more per year as adults than subjects whose parents didn't receive home visits. 

Top Middle School Mathletes Compete on ESPN


You've watched the Scripps National Spelling Bee. Now for those a little bit more left-brained, ESPN3 aired the nationwide MathCounts competition earlier this month -- and the questions were no joke. Edward Wan, a seventh grader from Lakeside Middle School in Seattle, took home the grand prize, which includes a $20,000 college scholarship and a trip to U.S. Space Camp. Check out some of the questions (and competitors' quick response times) here (Burke, Deadspin).

Finalists for 2016 Broad Prize for Public Charter Schools   

Three schools have been named finalists for the $250,000 Broad Prize for Public Charter Schools, awarded to the best-performing charter management organization in the country. Gregory McGinity, executive director of The Broad Foundation said, “These three charter organizations are proving that all students can achieve at high levels, and we’re pleased to recognize their continuing progress.” The winner will be announced next month.

  • Success Academy Charter Schools is the largest public charter school network in New York City, with 34 elementary, middle and high schools serving 11,000 students. 
  • IDEA Public Schools  is a network of 44 elementary, middle and high schools in Texas that serves more than 24,000 students. 
  • YES Prep is a network of 15 middle and high schools that serves more than 10,000 students in Houston

pen pals

Peer Pen Pals Pay Off 

A teacher in South Dakota assigned his fifth-graders to exchange letters with high-school students in his wife's English classes to develop writing skills. The yearlong collaborative project, which expanded to other classes in both teachers' schools over the last few years, helps the students improve their writing and develop friendships with peers. At the end of the year, the pen pals get a chance to meet face to face. Interest in the program has swelled to nearly 100 participants (ClaytonThe Daily Republic). 

Resources to Use


What We Heard from Educators This Week


5. "If we have to convince students that the learning is relevant, is it truly relevant to them?" (Principal, Missouri).
4. "Teachers have to take control of the narrative around teaching. If we don't shape the message, others will" (Teacher, South Carolina).
3. "I have teacher eyes. I see lessons everywhere. Physics on the freeway. Art in the clouds. And hope in my students' eyes" (Teacher, Washington).
2. "The end of the school year can test a healthy culture. It takes everyone to protect it, to honor it, to keep kids at the heart of it" (Teacher, Arkansas).
1. "If your students' experience in school is the same as your experience in school decades ago, that is a problem. The world is different now than it was then. And you didn't like being taught that way anyway" (Teacher, Massachusetts).