Last week, my students in my Foundations of Education class in Richmond, VA joined students in a teacher leadership club at Mount Holyoke in Massachusetts, to talk about global education with Noah Ziechner in Seattle, Washington.
Noah (pictured, at left) had just returned from Singapore where he and a group of teacher leaders met for the Global Cities Education Network (GCEN) symposium organized by the Asia Society.
He met with educators from Canada, America, Singapore, Finland, Shanghai, and Hong Kong. This virtual visit was, of course, a wonderful experience for my class.
Noah shared his expertise and wisdom about global education and informed my students in a way I could not have. He broadened their horizons because he, unlike myself, has actually met and formed relationships with professionals in Singapore where their system of technical education leaves no student behind (really!) He got to know educators from the countries we seem to envy these days. Through seamless connections in and out of cyberspace, Noah was able to spread his expertise while remaining a practicing teacherpreneur.
That is why we, Jon Eckert (Wheaton), Megan Allen (Mount Holyoke), and I (representing Virginia Commonwealth University) started this project. As accomplished teachers working in teacher preparation we know one thing for sure. Humility. There are so many great teachers in our country and, thanks to the Center for Teaching Quality’s Collaboratory, any potential teacher, teacher educator, or parent has access to the same voices, expertise, and passion.
Our project, which grew out of our work on Teaching 2030: Leveraging Teacher Preparation 2.0, is meant to explore how we can create what I am terming “TeacherPrep 2030: Preparation for Accomplished Practice.” For years we have focused on adequately preparing enough teachers so that they don’t quit after their first year, yet we haven’t always demonstrated to them what a teacher looks like when they stick around.
It is my perspective that we really need to be preparing teachers to enter the local, national, and international community of teacher practitioners with an eye on creating the educational system students deserve. I know that before I entered teaching the only great teachers I ever met were the ones that had directly taught me. I didn’t know any great teachers in the communities I would work in or anywhere else on the planet. In this online interaction I was able to introduce my students and Noah and step aside. The expertise Noah was able to provide on the subject of global education was grounded in the classroom and inspired by a vision for the future.
One of my favorite ideas from Noah can be summarized like this, “Most reformers talk about 21st century skills because we are in a competition. Yes, we need to prepare students for the Global Marketplace so that America can be competitive. But, we also need to prepare our students for the Global Marketplace where they will collaborate with people in these same countries.” His statement totally flipped the idea of capitalism on its head.
The video chat would have been enough – yet there was a great thing that happened on the spur of the moment. Prior to the call, our class worked in small groups to create idealized visions for education reform. Instead of asking my students to accept the way things are, I asked them to share visions of what education could be. One of the groups had been inspired by Noah in our text, Teacherpreneurs: Innovative Teachers Who Lead But Don’t Leave.
Through the magic of digital video, my students were able to present their education reform to the entire class AND Noah as he watched from the laptop screen. He gave the group feedback and asked some good questions. The effect was palpable. There is something really special about realizing that the people that inspire us can also be our colleagues, our mentors, our friends. This is one of the reasons why I invite accomplished teachers into my teacher preparation classroom. I hope they can meet their future colleagues, the ones that are leading the profession, just like they will.