Insights from innovative teachers

Several TLN members took part in Microsoft’s U.S Innovative Teachers Forum this year, so it was fun to come across this four-page summary of teacher insights gleaned from the annual invitation-only summit held at MS headquarters in Redmond, WA.

Teachers at this year’s gathering talked a lot about ways to strengthen teacher leadership in their schools and communities and brainstormed ideas about the best ways to manage  professional learning teams and garner administrative support.

With a helping hand from the National Staff Development Council and the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future, the teacher teams representing 22 schools across the USA also explored the disconnect between current school curricula and the knowledge base identified by groups like the Partnership for 21st Century Skills as essential for today’s K-12 students to acquire.

Here are five of the Top 10 ways the Innovative Teachers teams demonstrate leadership to improve schools, student outcomes, and their own professional satisfaction:

• Working in teams allows these teachers to model good learning and collaborative problem-solving. They share ideas, expertise, and vulnerabilities. They’re flexible and willing to wrestle with change. They spend lots of time with their teammates– in school and out of school.

• They disregard strict job descriptions and don’t worry about status. Duties are redistributed at their schools:  administrators teach, teachers have a role in administrative decisions.

• They garner community support, engaging with the community through service learning projects, and working with parents informally and formally through the PTA and other organizations.

•They benefit from the expertise of other teachers by creating teams with teachers who are metacognitive, seek learning opportunities, and are self-evaluating.

• They work to build credibility with each other, establishing a norm of respect for different opinions and dealing directly with problems. They use mediation when necessary to solve conflicts. They also respect failures, using them  as a powerful impetus to review and revise their teamwork and classroom teaching.

You can read the entire “Top Ten” list and also find out what these exemplary teachers had to say about other important topics — including the positive aspects of professional learning communities — at this link. (It’s an MS Word document, of course!) Microsoft will begin accepting applications for the 2008 Forum in March. You can see the criteria used to select the 2007 teams here.