Last week, Sarah Brown Wessling and I attended the second annual International Summit on the Teaching profession sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and Education International (EI), the NEA, the AFT and the Chief State School Officers in New York City.
It was interesting for a couple of reasons. First, the summit was created by Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, so the United States has the opportunity to learn from countries whose students have excelled in the international rankings.
Second, each country was asked to share where they are on ensuring a high-quality teacher in every classroom. Usually, country delegations prepare a description of their ideal system—the one they are aiming for—not the one they actually have.
This year, countries were honest about what was going well and what remained to be done. Sweden has one applicant for every teaching position while Finland has 10 applicants. Japan’s economic struggles are affecting their ability to pay teachers what they should be paid. Singapore described its new plan for a better system for teachers and despite their success, suggested that they had a long road ahead.
This is important because it means when countries begin to tell the truth about what they have and what they wished they had, they are more prepared to work collaboratively to learn from one another and to begin the honest work of comparing problems and generating solutions.
Another thing was unusual. Each delegation included classroom teachers. Often the delegation had a teacher spokesperson. Denmark reminded people that its King teaches a half day every day.
The teachers in the room were superb spokespeople and made a number of important points: the need for teachers to have time to work together, to learn from each other, to examine student work together, the need for early childhood support for children, the need for social supports in schools so that teachers can concentrate on their most important job-helping students learn.
A number of American teachers of the year were in the room, tweeting on the proceedings and helping policy makers to focus on the issues that are most important to improving work conditions for teachers.
At Teaching Channel, we are working hard to make sure we provide you with the kind of environment you need in order to learn from each other. In late summer we will begin piloting a dimension of our site that will enable teachers to form study groups—precisely so you might be able to collaborate on improving together while using high quality video of great teaching in action. I can’t wait to introduce the new site to you and to hear about how you choose to use it to strengthen your ability to help kids.
Click here to view a great summary of the event that includes webcasts and presentations from the summit.