A Supportive Community of Educators

December 13, 2016

This piece by Jane Ehrenfeld, Inspired Teaching’s Executive Director, appeared in Inspired Teaching’s December 2016 newsletter. 

As this year comes to an end, we’re celebrating our Inspired Family: not only current and former Fellows, Institute participants, funders, partners, and friends, but also teachers throughout the country who think they are alone in their inquiry- and engagement-based pedagogy.

Most people may not guess it, but being a teacher can be lonely. You spend your entire day with students, but you’re often isolated from your fellow teachers, in your school and in the profession at large. And if your classroom doesn’t look like the norm – if it’s based in engaging students’ inherent curiosity and building every child’s Intellect, Inquiry, Imagination, and Integrity – the feeling of isolation can compound. Inspired Teaching is working to change that.

When I started teaching in 1997, I didn’t realize that I was an inspired teacher aspiring to become an Inspired Teacher. From talking with colleagues or attending professional development, I could tell that my classroom was different than others. I wasn’t as concerned with my students’ standardized test scores as I was with their deep understanding of the material. I heard stories of students being disciplined for behaviors that I understood and empathized with. When you feel isolated and different, sometimes it can be hard to believe that what you’re doing is right. I longed to find resources – and a community of practice – that would support my pedagogy and teaching.

After a decade of teaching in Maryland and Boston, I moved to DC, went to law school, and began to work for the Department of Education. I was happy to be in the District, but it wasn’t until I found my way to Center for Inspired Teaching that I realized how lucky I was to have moved here. If I had ended up living and working anywhere else in the country, I may not have joined a strong, supportive network of teachers who, like me, were dedicated to improving outcomes for children through a joyful and rigorous school experience. I may not have discovered the Inspired Family.

For the past two years I have gotten to be part of the desperately needed solution to the isolation I felt as a teacher. We have made a home for many educators who have found both resources and community with us. Together, Inspired Teachers find ways to connect with their students and build their skills as problem solvers and lifelong learners. They collaborate to reach ever more students – by training their peers, working with administrators and parents, and contributing to the national dialogue about teaching and learning. We are proud of the impact our Inspired Family has had on the tens of thousands of students who have experienced truly engaging teaching. And we’re excited for our Inspired Family to grow.

The Inspired Teacher Certification Program is now accepting applicants who are looking for successful and sustainable careers in the classroom. Even as we continue to work with new and in-service teachers in DC, we are planning to expand our programming to educators in regions beyond DC. We are also launching the Instigator of Thought Challenge, an online initiative designed to strengthen the practice of thousands of educators. Please share these opportunities with the current and future educators you know – and if you believe Inspired Teaching should come to your school or district next, contact us.

Since you’re reading this, you are probably already a member of the Inspired Family, contributing to a fundamental change in the education landscape. We are grateful to have you with us. We hope you’ll invite in your friends and colleagues. This year we are sending out a very clear message to all who care for young people: you are welcome here.

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