Lead the Change at Your School
Teacher Voices | July 5, 2022
By MƒA Master Teachers Alia Jackson and Chris Weisbrot
We believe that at every school teachers must be the drivers of change. In education, it feels like change is always necessary. Perhaps this is because our profession is not rooted in evidence-based practices as much as it is in the dynamics of a school or even a singular class. In education, we look to best practices but base our work on the organic nature of those we teach, what they bring to the classroom, and the relationships that are created while learning. For this reason we believe it is teachers who must be the drivers of change; they are the only ones with their fingers on the pulse of what is happening and what is needed.
Drawing upon our experiences at MƒA, we saw the opportunity to improve professional development (PD) at our school. We aimed to empower teachers to have a voice in their own growth and to lead their peers in that growth. A few MƒA teachers at our school came together to form a PD committee modeled after the format of MƒA. Teachers offered to share what they were passionate about with their colleagues in a setting that rarely happens in education – space and time were carved out for reflection and growth. This unconstrained freedom allowed us to create a diversity of course offerings. The choice given to facilitators and participants made PD something that felt meaningful and enjoyable. Drawing upon the experience of our faculty, we asked for facilitators of multiple session courses and put together a catalog of offerings from which teachers could choose. This course catalog is now created each cycle, with offerings ranging from pedagogical to social-emotional learning to incorporating drawing and music into the STEM classroom. Teachers are asked to register for courses within our school’s catalog, and limited seating in each workshop adds to the excitement. Enthusiasm for this model was demonstrated by the number of volunteers who stepped up to facilitate, as well as the overwhelmingly positive feedback. “The best day of PD I ever had” is NOT often heard from teachers - but that’s what we heard. We created a microcosm of the MƒA professional development program at our school.
There have been many challenges over the past few years that made it difficult to keep the new approach going in our school. Together, the teachers at our school are trying our best to continue to offer engaging and high quality PD choices. We still firmly believe that the change needs to come from us. We encourage readers not to give up and to be the change in your schools. A faculty that is engaged in making themselves better teachers is not only possible, it is a needed change in many schools. Be the driver of that change. Embrace it. Speak up when you see an opportunity. Be a leader. Recognize the possibilities you possess standing at the crossroads of your school and community.
Alia Jackson has been teaching physics for 16 years at Curtis High School on Staten Island. In 2011, she was a Sloan Award for Excellence in Teaching Math and Science winner. She has been an MƒA Master Teacher since 2013, where she has led astronomy and physics related PLTs and MƒAdventures.
Chris Weisbrot has been teaching for 10 years, first in the Bronx and then at Curtis High School on Staten Island. While he started as a Living Environment teacher, he has branched out to Science Research, IB Bio, and a new class called Aeronautical Engineering. He is currently in his second MƒA Master Teacher Fellowship.