Inspired Teachers as Changemakers

June 22, 2015

(Photo: Kien Nguyen/Center for Inspired Teaching)

Written by Aleta Margolis, Inspired Teaching’s Founder and Executive Director, this piece first appeared in Inspired Teaching’s June 2015 newsletter

This month, I want to specially recognize the outstanding educators who have recently completed Inspired Teaching programs: the new teachers who have completed the 24-month Inspired Teacher Certification Program and the DC Public Schools (DCPS) Teacher Leaders participating in BLISS: Building Literacy in the Social Studies and SCALE: Science Curriculum Advancement through Literacy Enhancement.

We have spent the past several weeks at Inspired Teaching celebrating the accomplishments of these incredible changemakers as they prepare to carry forward Inspired Teaching throughout their careers.

At our “Inquiry in Action” event earlier this month, we learned from the 2013 Inspired Teaching Fellows, who presented research and reflections from their first year as teachers of record in public and public charter schools across DC. They shared their expertise on topics ranging from the impact of music on student engagement to the effect of the number of hours in a teacher’s workweek to the correlation between the types of questions teachers ask and students’ critical thinking skills. Already, these new teachers are contributing to the body of knowledge on teaching and learning. In addition to working to strengthen their own practice, the Fellows are proposing and leading changes to the school experience that are in the best interest of students and the teaching profession.

At our end of year celebration for BLISS and SCALE, our keynote speaker, DCPS Chief of Teaching and Learning Brian Pick, honored our Teacher Leaders for their many changemaking accomplishments: their shifts to inquiry-based instruction; the student-driven, standards-aligned curricula they created and piloted; and the professional development they led for their peers districtwide. Teacher Leaders showcased elements of their work and engaged in important conversations about teaching and learning, informed by their experiences with BLISS and SCALE. A BLISS Teacher Leader talked about teaching the Protestant Reformation and literacy skills to his high school students by preparing a lesson about how to write letters to start a revolution. Two SCALE Teacher Leaders presented the unexpected products of student investigations – creative weather vanes and very different takes on the same cellular model – and explained how allowing students to direct their own learning, with careful guidance, led to deeper understanding of the material.

Like our Inspired Teaching Fellows, the work of these Teacher Leaders in Inspired Teaching’s programs has transformed and will continue to transform not only their own classrooms, but teaching and learning more broadly. Their curriculum writing work will be embedded into DCPS’s new Cornerstones initiative, a district plan to elevate instruction in every classroom across the city. These Teacher Leaders’ commitment to shifting the norm for their students and among their peers will build a better school experience wherever they go.

Inspired Teaching’s programs are intentionally designed this way: we build teachers’ capacity as changemakers and we empower them to re-examine their practice throughout their careers, fueling constant professional growth. Formally completing our programs does not mean the end of a teacher’s involvement with Inspired Teaching – in fact, it’s just the beginning.

The pioneering dancer and choroegrapher Martha Graham once said, “No artist is pleased. There is no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer, divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others.” On the first day of every Inspired Teaching Institute, we introduce this quote to our teachers. We ask them to cultivate a stance of divine dissatisfaction in their profession. They are good teachers, and they want to be better – and they want to be changemakers in classrooms, schools, and society.

In a few days, at the beginning of July, we’ll introduce the idea of “divine dissatisfaction” to our next cohort of Inspired Teaching Fellows and our next cohorts of BLISS and SCALE Teacher Leaders. I’m excited to see where it takes us.

September Inspired Teaching Institute

Teachers can’t control what happens between the time students wake up and when they arrive at school but they have a lot of control over what happens when students cross the classroom threshold. Participants in this fast-paced, idea-rich Institute will learn 20 different strategies for starting the school day!