September 14, 2016
This piece by Jane Ehrenfeld, Inspired Teaching’s Executive Director, appeared in Inspired Teaching’s September 2016 newsletter.
Think back, for a moment, to your school days. Which teacher – or, if you were lucky, teachers – made you most excited to come to school? Who sparked your curiosity, honored your intelligence, nurtured your emotional wellbeing, and made school a place of joy and adventure? Take a moment to remember the superstar(s) of your school experience. And then ask yourself: why weren’t all my teachers like that?
We need great teachers nationwide if we hope to prepare all students to thrive in and contribute to our complex and rapidly changing world. Unfortunately, most schools prize compliance, and many strong teachers, who would otherwise be great, find themselves compelled to use rote teaching methods and to rely on prizes and punishments in order to achieve silent, still classrooms. Since our founding in 1995, Center for Inspired Teaching has worked in partnership with teachers to shift that norm. With our new strategic plan, we are ready to extend our impact even more, working with new teachers, schools, communities, and partners across the country.
As participants in the Re-imagine Learning Globalizer, an Ashoka initiative run in partnership with the LEGO Foundation, Inspired Teaching was paired with an advisory team of global business leaders and McKinsey consultants. They challenged us to imagine a world in which we have managed to put ourselves out of business because every child now experiences engagement-based education and learns to thrive. What would it take to get there?
With the support of our partners, Inspired Teaching identified three key areas that need to change in order to ensure nationwide adoption of engagement-based education. First, teacher training programs need to equip teachers with the right tools, methods, and mindsets to create engagement-based classrooms. Second, institutional norms need to be more supportive of engagement-based teachers. And third, public expectations about what school should look like need to undergo a revolution, replacing the outdated and all-too-familiar image of compliance-based teaching.
We know we are not alone in working to make these changes happen. People and organizations across the country are dedicated to similar goals and are doing extraordinary work. Inspired Teaching will leverage our unique strengths – building from our ongoing programs in Washington, DC – to contribute to this broader effort. To make it possible for us to address the three key areas identified above, we’ve created three strategic pillars that are deeply grounded in our core work and values:
1 – Run highly visible, model programs that train Inspired Teachers and serve to inform and transform other teacher training programs.
2 – Build a vibrant community of educator-changemakers, aligned under a shared vision of engagement-based teaching, who work together to influence institutional norms.
3 – Engage a broad-based coalition of partners to shift public expectations so engagement-based education becomes the gold standard for all students.
We’ve already moved from the theoretical to the practical. Over the next year, Inspired Teaching will put our plan into action by sharpening the focus of our current programs and developing new initiatives. In addition to our ongoing work with teachers and schools in Washington, DC, we will pilot the Instigator of Thought™ Challenge, designed to spark professional learning and support school-based changemaking. We will also begin offering the Inspired Teaching Institute in new regions in the US.
We have dared to dream big in order to answer a massive, pressing demand. You can support us as we grow. Donate. Contact your school, district, or network leaders to bring Inspired Teaching to you. Join the Instigator of Thought Challenge, starting for teachers this October. Follow important news in engagement-based education by subscribing to InspirED Reads. Above all, advocate for a shift in the norm, away from compliance toward engagement, for every student, in whatever way you can.
We envision playing a key role within a movement to achieve a goal shared by many: to transform education so that every child experiences inspired teaching. If we are successful, then there will be a day when any adult who looks back to her years in school will be able to identify not one or two, but many, teachers who taught her how to thrive in and contribute to the world she has inherited. You can help make that future possible.