Dear Philadelphia School Teachers,
We’ve heard the stories: How big your classes are; how few adults are in the building; how teaching suffers, learning suffers, everyone suffers. How the future of Philadelphia schools is bleak, and how inequities keep it that way. How you, even you, cannot turn the tide on this sorry state of affairs. We’ve seen the teaching profession get pummeled by political leaders, who seem to forget that it’s you, on the ground, who do the hard work in the classroom.
But we’ve also seen you work, and heard your passion, and marveled at your optimism—yes optimism—in the face of so much frustration and hostility. We’ve seen you show up to school everyday, knowing the limitations, when so many of you could do other things. And we’ve seen you strive to become better at what you do, so your students can learn more, your schools can succeed, your communities can thrive. We know, it’s hard. But we know it is also the most important job there is, the care and shaping of little minds that are the future of Philadelphia. And we appreciate the work you do.
Not just teachers are welcome. Anyone interested in celebrating teachers and learning more about how you do what you do is invited.
So do others. This weekend is the Philadelphia Education Fund’s fourth annual teacher convening, a conference designed by teachers, for teachers, with actual teaching in mind. The Tri-State Teacher Convening to Connect, Collaborate and Continue Teacher Networks will focus on something somewhat unique to Philly: The large number of teacher networks, groups of educators from across schools and sectors who meet regularly to improve your craft. As you probably know, several hundred Philly teachers belong to some 30 official teacher networks, including Teachers Lead Philly, Philadelphia Area Math Teachers Circle and PhilaSoup. They are working to change the way learning happens, from inside the classroom, at a time when banding together is the best defense for what comes at you from outside.
The weekend—one of several around the country this fall funded by the Gates Foundation, through nationwide teaching network ECET2 —will give you and other teachers throughout the region, the opportunity to learn more about Philly’s networks; attend several different sessions, led by teachers, on specific teaching issues like “Enhancing Classroom Culture,” using iTunes U, and “sparking innovations” in math; collaborate with other educators on ideas for solving particular problems in the classroom through small round-table discussions; and celebrate, with what is sure to be a rousing recognition of your work by teacher advocate (and City Council candidate) Helen Gym.
You strive to become better at what you do, so your students can learn more, your schools can succeed, your communities can thrive. We appreciate the work you do.
Chris Angelini, one of the organizers of the convening, says this year’s program is an antidote to what you might know as the “sit and get” of most District-led professional development: You sit and get a bunch of information thrown at you. Instead, the convening is just that: A convening of teachers like you, teaching and learning from each other. “Teachers are this incredible resource that schools and the District often have not tapped,” says Angelini, an English teacher at Crossroads Accelerated Academy and board member of Teachers Lead Philly. “We have some incredible seasoned teachers in the classrooms, and this is an opportunity to share with their peers and learn from each other, instead of working in isolation.”
Oh, and not just teachers are welcome. Anyone interested in celebrating teachers and learning more about how you do what you do is invited to the event. It’s free, Friday night and all day Saturday, at the National Museum of American Jewish History. You can register here.
So come. And bring your friends, so they can see what Ami Patel Hopkins, Vice President of Teaching, Learning and Innovation at the Ed Fund, sees all the time: Hope. As she put it recently, “When I think ‘teacher in Philadelphia’ someone that comes to mind is optimistic, with incredible work ethic, passion and a healthy dose of fun!” Indeed.
Header photo by Jack Dugan.