With the recent reports of a teacher shortage in America, a vital conversation about how to attract more new teachers has started. While many are talking, perhaps the most important voice in the conversation, the voice of teachers themselves, has yet to be heard.
I believe that the next generation of teacher leaders won’t be satisfied with just a bump in salary. We want the chance to affect change in our community, to creatively problem-solve, to use our autonomy for our students’ benefit, and to engage socially with everyone around us. Fortunately, there is already a forward-thinking initiative in Minneapolis that offers exactly that: Community Partnership Schools.
Community Partnership Schools (CPS) are launching this school year in the Minneapolis Public Schools. These site-specific programs will have greater autonomy, and offer teachers richer engagement with students, parents and community leaders through shared responsibilities and collaborative innovation.
Such partnerships with invested, passionate people offer veteran and novice teachers a path toward changing the way we see schools, a path to creatively designing better schools, and ultimately, a path to helping every student learn. This initiative has been trumpeted by Minneapolis Public Schools Interim Superintendent Michael Goar, and should be equally exciting for any teacher interested in nurturing a new generation of teacher-leaders to support our students.
A collaborative network
Community Partnership Schools embrace the philosophy that school culture should be built on the existing foundation of community support through dialogue, design and innovation shared among professional educators, families, and neighborhood leaders. Even the most tireless teachers know that collaborating with an existing support network will trump the best efforts to manufacture such support. Moreover, this integrated collection of voices will more effectively influence student success than teachers operating in isolation. The embedded social aspects of this design should appeal to new graduates looking for careers, rather than just jobs, and all teachers will benefit from listening to and speaking with community members.
To create better and more responsive schools, and to recruit and retain more educators, we have to make teaching more than instruction and assessment. For too long teacher voice has been missing from policy-making. Community Partnership Schools aim to amplify forgotten voices, creating reforms built on the advice of parents, community leaders, and classroom teachers. By inviting teacher-driven ideas for innovation at CPS sites and creating leadership roles for teachers on the CPS Advisory Committee, both Minneapolis Public Schools and the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers have boosted the role teachers play in creating change.
To some, the CPS model may seem daunting: demanding more time spent in meetings and less on the individual art of crafting a lesson, and expanding teachers’ roles to shoulder even more responsibility for student achievement than a high-stakes testing already has.
Teachers know how to juggle schedules
However, I trust that those teachers who take the opportunity to explore and give input to the CPS will address these issues. I know teachers can juggle shifting schedules of meetings and course management; we do it every day. I have seen teachers seek greater responsibility in supporting students; we care too much not to. Moreover, we will not be going it alone. We teachers know that parents, administrators, and students themselves adore great teachers. They want us to succeed as much as we do. I trust that they will help juggle timings and share responsibilities to make the system work.
We need more teachers. We need them to feel challenged and engaged. We have a way to do that. It now falls to us as teachers to accept the challenge and the responsibility of creating better schools through the innovation, autonomy and social atmosphere of Community Partnership Schools.
Ben MacKenzie teaches 9th- and 12th-grade English/Language Arts at FAIR School Downtown in Minneapolis, and he is a teacher leader for Educators 4 Excellence.
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