If you’ve read my bio, you know that I’ve been a teacher, led a teacher training program, and that I’m now in grad school. But what am I actually doing in grad school? And what am I thinking about doing once I’m done futzing around in the ivory tower? If you’re curious, some answers are below.
First, context: The doctoral degree program that I’m in is, in my biased opinion, really cool. It provides an incredible opportunity to learn from brilliant folks all across Harvard. It has provided me with the time and resources to pursue the ideas and lines of research that I find most fascinating.
Shortly after beginning my doctoral work in August of 2017, I started reading about the factors that lead to burnout among teachers. I used any latitude in my first-year schedule to dive deeper into that topic. And then, this past spring, I had the opportunity to take a class in which our central assignment was the following: Come up with an idea that has the potential to make a significant impact on the education sector.
At first, I wasn’t particularly excited about the class. So, mostly out of laziness, I figured I would align my project for the class to the research and interviews I was already doing into the personal challenges faced by early-career educators. Over the semester, however, my excitement grew. Before long, I was captivated by the opportunity to make a meaningful difference in improving the experience of early-career teachers in our country. Over that semester, the idea for New Teachers Thriving was born.
At the time, however, I was thinking about this as something that I wouldn’t start working on for a while. But during my end-of-year presentation, the reception to my presentation took me by surprise. “This is badly needed,” one of the visiting judges said. Another encouraged me: “Just start. Find a district that’s open to trying this, create a pilot program, and get going. You’ll learn a lot along the way.”
So I did. This past summer, I approached the Boston Teachers Union with an offer: I told them that I’d like to lead a course to help early-career teachers not be, well, miserable. The purpose of the course would be to help teachers avoid burnout and stay in the profession longer than they might otherwise. The union liked the idea, so they brought it to staff members at Boston Public Schools. Folks at the district office were enthusiastic, so the pilot got an official green light.
At that point, we put together a one-page flyer that got emailed out to early-career teachers throughout the district--you can see flyer here: https://tinyurl.com/thrive1pager. We were hoping that between 15 and 20 teachers might take part, but over 70 teachers ended up applying and over 50 outstanding teachers have been attending the course sessions thus far. The feedback from participants has been overwhelmingly positive.
This pilot course in Boston has shown me that there’s a real hunger among educators for this type of development. To consider just one piece of anecdotal evidence, just check out the smiles of the folks I’m working with at the end of our first session.
In my next post, I’ll share thoughts about how I’m thinking about expanding this work in the years ahead.