Yesterday, I had the pleasure of attending a panel discussion with Teach for America regarding their summer institute for new teachers and training initiatives going forward. It was a who's who of education aficionados and blogger/news types all gathered together to get the rundown of how TFA operates.
On stage Momentous, SMU, DISD, and TFA itself were represented. In the crowed you had DISD Trustees, Dallas Teacher Residency, Stand for Children and Dallas Kids First members, wealthy funders, and teachers. Watching, blogging, and taking notes were veterans of the game. Eric Celeste complete with cowboy boots and his trademark facial hair, Matthew Haag and his laptop sitting in the back, Brett Shipp in all his Brett Shippness, and me, just happy to be sitting near these folks, absorbing their blogging and writing skills.
The main takeaway from this panel was that TFA is constantly rethinking and improving its training methods for new teachers. Director Alex Hales and VP of Teacher Leadership, Elizabeth Fritze Cheek showcased and impressive list of resources available not just to TFA teachers, but All Teachers. Partnerships with Momentous and SMU could go a long way to helping improve the quality of classroom instruction and the reception of that instruction by students through social and emotional training. Why should DISD care? Because all of these methods and materials are free and for share with every teacher in the district if they're interested. Could be a strong alternative to the weekly PD that makes us all want to run head first into nearest wall.
The common misconception is that TFA teachers get 5 weeks of training then are abandoned in the classroom. Compared to Dallas AC for example, these teachers have weekly check-ins and conferences with a slew of mentors, advisers and observers, daily if necessary; additionally, they supplement district mandated PD with regular TFA and SMU PD nights and weekends. The myth of the 5 week training couldn't be further from the truth and it would benefit all of TFA's detractors to take not of this simple fact and the proceed with the criticism accordingly.
The Momentous philosophy of educating the whole student brings me back to an idea of looking at the whole school instead of just the teachers. The question I asked was what resources are available to help school leadership become stronger. We've talked about it before, but there are several APs, Principals, and even Executive Directors that have no experiences either running a business or teaching in a DISD classroom. DISD administrators and leadership are struggling, but they don't have to be. Many of the chronic issues we have and complain about come from a lack of skills and leaders being promoted / hired without the credentials necessary to be successful in their new position. It's not necessarily their fault, but if we want our schools to be successful, we need our leaders to be able to hone their skills just like we as teachers are called to do.
The future of Dallas ISD still has the potential to be bright. All of this collaboration is a great start. The next step is to get out of the same rooms with the same people, ideas, and mindsets to created a united district. We have to bring in our Veteran DISD teachers that have rejected some of these ideas in the past, not by force, but by sincere invitation.
DISD PD Reflection Week