Why Obama should invest in teachers
My guest is George Wood, principal of Federal Hocking High School in Stewart, Ohio, and executive director of The Forum for Education and Democracy, a nonprofit organization that is a collaboration of educators from around the country.
By George Wood
This past week I was in Washington to talk with colleagues and friends about the upcoming debates over the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind. While I enjoy the city and my friends, it was great to get back to my school just in time for Friday — one of my favorite days. And it has nothing to do with it being the day before the weekend.
Every other Friday, my staff and I meet for what we call ‘planning period meetings’. Since we are on a semester schedule with long periods, this means we have about an hour to talk about our shared work. During the first semester of the year, we read a book together and discuss it. In the second semester, we take on a protocol called ‘looking at student work.’
The task is simple; a teacher presents work from one of his or her classes to colleagues and asks us to discuss a question generated by the assignment. Usually this involves student work that is not what the teacher had hoped s/he would get. So we examine the lesson, the strategies used, and the student work and try to find ideas that will improve the work of students.
This past Friday lived up to our usual expectations.
We began with an Agricultural Science teacher presenting student essays that did not address the need for evidence in making their case. I sat in the back as the group of middle and high school teachers from math, science, humanities, and special education (along with a couple of student teachers) poured through the work. The discussion looked at how students were coached on such assignments through the term, what the rubric looked like, how to use the building-wide writing standards.
Then, during the second period a team met to look at a 7th grade science assignment, and the discussion turned quickly to how students see work as opposed to how we see it. (In this case the teacher had asked for students to create a poster showing living things from most simple to most complex — the kids mistook it for a chart showing how humans evolved from sponges!)
For third period, we looked at how to create performance assessments in trigonometry; the most interesting ideas came from the band instructor.
We finished with a look at an integrated humanities class that blends history and literature for ninth graders. The assessment of the unit on ‘Revolution and the Enlightenment’ asked students to compare and contrast the ideas that informed the Founders’ calls for independence. Having not received the papers he had hoped for, the teacher wanted us to look at the literacy tools he had used during instruction and see if they were best suited for such writing.
I sat in my office at the end of the day marveling at what I had heard -- the insights shared among colleagues, the seriousness with which they took student work, and the effort to understand instruction as it cuts across content areas. Here was a professional learning community at work.
And I wondered, what if the policy movers and shakers who are responsible for reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, now known as No Child Left Behind, had been with me today and not back in Washington? Would they finally understand that the most important investment they can make is in teachers and teaching?
Would they see that if we have teachers doing the type of work that we did today, they would not have to worry about micro-managing schools? Would they realize that what we need is less threats and punishments, and more opportunities for motivated teachers to help and learn from each other and improve the quality of their professional practice?
I think the would, so here’s my open invitation: stop by any Friday and spend a day with us. We’d love to have you.
Follow my blog all day, every day by bookmarking washingtonpost.com/answersheet And for admissions advice, college news and links to campus papers, please check out our new Higher Education page at washingtonpost.com/higher-ed Bookmark it!
| March 12, 2010; 9:33 AM ET
Categories: Guest Bloggers, No Child Left Behind, Teachers | Tags: George Wood, Obama, guest bloggers, teachers, teaching
Save & Share: Previous: Why Obama, Duncan should read Linda Darling-Hammond’s new education book
Next: Harvard study: Are weighted AP grades fair?
Posted by: Rose82 | March 12, 2010 11:30 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: celestun100 | March 12, 2010 12:25 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: bsallamack | March 12, 2010 2:19 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: bokun59 | March 12, 2010 2:29 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: tutucker | March 12, 2010 3:28 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: bsallamack | March 12, 2010 4:03 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: bsallamack | March 12, 2010 4:37 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: bsallamack | March 12, 2010 4:56 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: notation | March 12, 2010 5:23 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: DocWood | March 13, 2010 3:08 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: StephanieHirsh | March 14, 2010 9:52 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: tutucker | March 14, 2010 2:29 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: DocWood | March 15, 2010 4:26 PM | Report abuse
The comments to this entry are closed.