About a year ago we began a new endeavor. We decided to pilot a program called TLAC Fellows. Here’s how we described it last May:
The idea is this: We want to create incentives for great teachers to become even better teachers. That is, we want ways for them to be ambitious and remain in the classroom, to be ambitious about being a classroom teacher, rather than having entering administration be the only way to be ambitious.
And we want to encourage very, very good teachers to focus on getting even better- to strive to become classroom artisans who love and are fascinated by the mastery of the craft. We want them to love deep study of teaching and importantly, to influence their peers though the excellence of their daily teaching and their passion for the craft- their growth mindset, if you will. We think great schools need people like that. And being who we are of course we also want to learn not just from but with people like that- study them and their work but also study the craft generally alongside them.
What we came up with was a fellowship of three year’s duration. Fellows spend 18 months meeting with us about once a month. In those meetings, we watch video, share lesson plans, role play stuff, share feedback, etc. Then fellows go out and try to put what they are learning into their teaching, filming it and getting more feedback from their peers.
There’s stipend for this as well. We want incentives both spiritual and practical to study teaching and to stay in teaching, so the stipend continues for 18 more months after the monthly meetings end as long as fellows remain classroom teachers. We keep in touch and share ideas informally. But being in the fellowship implies remaining in the classroom for three full years.
Each of us on the TLAC team has been inspired by the commitment and humility of our fellows. We’ve learned so much from deeply studying their lesson plans and materials, looking at their student work, and hearing their honest reflections about teaching. Alongside members or our team, fellows have deeply studied (and practiced!) Close Reading Bursts, Embedding Nonfiction, and Art of the Sentence. After each meeting, fellows plan a lesson that incorporates the ideas they’ve just studied, get feedback from our team and then film themselves teaching the lesson they planned. Together, we watch clips from those lessons and discuss. Each fellow is also immersed in an independent study of a topic they’ve selected with the goal of designing an end product (video, blog post) that other teachers can learn from. Along the way, they share updates and progress with us through student work samples, video, and anecdotes from the classroom.
So, it’s no surprise that we’ve gotten a ton of great video of them in action, which we’ve been lucky to be able to share with thousands of other teachers.
Here are some reflections from our first cohort of fellows after their first six months in the program:
“The best part of the fellowship for me was the opportunity to learn from a diverse group of teachers who feel passionately about their work and excel in their craft. I loved watching videos of the fellows, I loved hearing their feedback, and I loved speaking with them about education.”
“I love working with the people involved in the fellowship as well as the content of what we are studying and doing. It’s been an incredible experience that makes me question what I do and the way I do it every day. As a teacher who wants to do this for her career this has been invaluable not in just what I have learned and brought to my classroom, students, and school, but also in terms of how I feel about teaching and my own path forward.”
We decided to pilot the fellowship very quietly for a year to try it out. In light of the program’s success, we’re excited to announce that we’re now accepting nominations by school leaders for the second cohort of fellows. In order to find out more information about the program AND nominate a teacher in your school, check out…