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Helping teachers thrive

By Tracy Laughlin

“It’s really hard to know you are doing your best, and you still can’t do your job.”

A teacher panelist opening the inaugural meeting of the Coalition to Reimagine the Teaching Role in Austin last month gave voice to what so many teachers think and feel every day. It’s why so many of them leave the classroom, increasingly, in droves. And it’s “the why” of the coalition, an emerging national movement to fundamentally rethink the teaching profession.

New Teacher Center is proud to contribute to this collective effort knowing that highly skilled mentors and coaches and other teacher leaders will have a pivotal role to play. We were inspired by the many voices at the event confirming that this work is about teachers and students — if we want teachers to be able to deliver what we want for our learners, we must consider how the role is designed so that teachers can “do the thing they signed up to do and do it well.”

“Doing it well” is what we are all about. We need to bring new teachers into the profession in thoughtful and realistic ways. We need to create the working conditions that keep them in the classroom and at the top of their game. And we need mentors and coaches to guide individual and team-based professional learning to support our educators’ ongoing development and leadership. We look forward to bringing our expertise to this effort, expanding our thinking, trying new ways of working with teachers and schools, and introducing what we learn from the coalition to our partnerships.

The convening opened with teachers talking about why they chose to teach, when they are happiest at work, what diminishes the quality of their work, and what responsibilities they needed to have taken off their plates. We also heard from superintendents making bold moves to change the teacher experience.

Coalition members then came together in groups to define a concrete and galvanizing goal to clarify what we want to be true in 10 years if we are successful, and how to create the enabling conditions across the system. Our conversations focused on changing the narrative among stakeholders and the public. We talked about leveraging and advancing research. And we considered how to influence the policy shifts that will allow us to remold the structures keeping the status quo in place, from teacher preparation and development to the architecture of the school day to system leadership.

We already have well-developed ideas and emerging models and proof points to learn from for maximizing teachers’ potential.

During our short 25 hours together, we laid the groundwork for joint actions to serve as an accelerant for this work — no small task considering the role as we know it has been calcifying in place for over 100 years, and what we are looking for is a sea change.

But that’s what movement building is about. Fortunately, coalition members have long been thinking about this in their respective lanes. We already have well-developed ideas and emerging models and proof points to learn from to maximize our teachers’ potential. Our job now is to figure out how to broadly build belief that our vision is possible and scale new examples of how to go about it. It won’t be easy, but it has to be done. We are eager to dive into this work with and for some of the best minds in the country — our teachers.

NTC looks forward to continuing this collaboration with 30+ member organizations nationwide on the coalition steering committee and narrative, metrics, and policy working groups. We will share insights and ideas about how everyone can help us elevate the teaching profession. Our students’ futures depend on it.

For now, we’ll leave you with these nuggets from the conversation as food for thought:

  • This isn’t a new problem, and we’ve got to stop “admiring” it. The status of the teaching profession has reached historic lows. Teachers respond to our unwillingness to address it with their feet.
  • While we’ve added people into the system over the last several decades, it hasn’t changed anything for teachers. We continue to heap more on their plates. How do we redistribute and reconfigure everything we ask teachers to do every day?
  • We keep asking ourselves how to “fix” education. The answer is — start by supporting teachers.
Helping teachers thrive

Tracy Laughlin

Director of Communications,
New Teacher Center