Miami-Dade Teacher Think Tank Using RenewalHarold Kwalwasser, December 19, 2012
Elsewhere on this website (in the “In the News” section), you can find a Miami Herald article about a group of Miami-Dade teachers who have decided to try to improve their schools – based on my book, Renewal, Remaking America’s Schools for the 21st Century.
What’s so significant about the teachers’ book club (or as the paper calls it a “think tank”) is that it is an effort by teachers to initiate improvements to their schools. They are not under pressure from administrators or the public. They simply want to make things better.
Their effort needs to be duplicated all across the country. One thesis of Renewal is that “bottom up” change is always going to be better than change imposed “top down” – from above. More importantly, when teachers embrace the kind of changes in Renewal, they are coming to grips with the most difficult challenges that our schools face. In moving from the old-style mass production system that characterized American schools for most of the 20th Century to differentiated, individualized instruction that is the hallmark of learning in the 21st Century, the greatest single burden falls on teachers. They have to re-learn their craft all over again. Many have resisted, which is on the one hand, understandable, but on the other hand, unforgivable.
Here are teachers taking a different path. They are focusing on how to make the transition successfully, notwithstanding how the systemic change involved will significantly affect what they do every day in their classrooms. Their effort needs to be duplicated, over and over, all across America.
Finally, the fact that these teachers, many of whom have been district or state Teachers of the Year, have decided to use Renewal as the basis for their effort is highly gratifying. It validates one principal goal of the book – to educate educators and parents about how to go about making reform work. I hope that other people will find that the book provides them with the same quality guidance it is offering these skilled educators in Miami.