I’ve been at Teaching Channel as its Chief Academic Officer and then as CEO for the last four years. I am now preparing to step down — so I wanted to reflect and say a rousing Thank You to all of our community!
Lots has happened in the past four years. When I arrived we had 500 teachers in our online community. Very soon, we will top over 800,000. Back then, we had 400 unique visitors every month; now we have over 500,000. We had 400 videos in our library; now we have over 1000+, with lots more in the works. I hired our first stellar laureate, Sarah Brown Wessling. We now have a fabulous team of ten laureates who are helping our community think about how all teachers, no matter how long they’ve been teaching, get better together.
Teaching Channel Colleagues,
I want to introduce you to new colleagues and members of the Teaching Channel Family.
When I joined Teaching Channel in the fall of 2011, the first thing I did was hire Sarah Brown Wessling as our Teacher Laureate. We conceived a role that would rotate (because there are so many excellent teachers in the United States!), and that would engage practicing teachers in demonstrating through videos, blogs, and newsletters how they go about getting better. Sarah did a fantastic job for us and has developed a huge following because she had the courage to make her practice public.
Dear Teaching Channel Community,
I hope your year is off to a wonderful start. Over the summer, we’ve been working very hard to make sure that we’re able to support you as the new school year begins. This month, you’ll start to see changes at TeachingChannel.org which I wanted to explain to you.
For the last two weeks, we have all been horrified and saddened by the killings at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church –- known to most as Mother Emanuel -– in Charleston, South Carolina. And wondering what we might do. Wishing there was something that could make it all less senseless, something that might relieve the grief of the families left behind.
On Saturday, having done nothing beyond telling my South Carolinian friends how sorry I am, I watched President Obama’s eulogy for the Reverend Clementa Pinckney, Mother Emanuel’s current pastor, and one of the nine who was struck down in the shootings. The eulogy was beautiful, constructed so we could see the astonishing, unexpected, utterly amazing grace of the families whose forgiveness of the alleged shooter has opened the door to reconciliation.
I recently visited a set of schools in Chicago that are part of the Academy of Urban School Leadership (AUSL) network. AUSL is an amazing school-turnaround organization in Chicago Public Schools. They produce over 150 new teachers in a top-notch residency program, preparing future teachers to work in urban schools.
The incredible thing about these schools is that when you walk in the front door, you can immediately feel that the adults in each building take their work really seriously. The schools are immaculate, light and joyful, filled with student work and inspirational acknowledgments of students’ accomplishments. When I visited classrooms, they were purposeful, engaging places where kids are doing important work. When I visited with teachers, they were mulling over what they need to do to ensure that their kids succeed, and they have an excellent handle on student performance data. When I look at their work on our collaboration platform, I see teachers and coaches working together to hone their skills, to give each other feedback, and to help each other grow as professionals. When I talked with administrators, they were enthusiastically working with teachers to strengthen their learning so that the teachers can in turn lift student learning.
Over the past four years, Teaching Channel has crisscrossed the United States to film in classrooms. We’ve made it a point to capture great teaching, emerging teaching, tough moments, triumphs, and illustrations of kids caught in the act of learning.
At our recent TeamsFest, an event where districts and professional learning organizations who license our Teaching Channel Teams platform come together to learn, collaborate, and share ideas, we overheard one anecdote that captures the essence of why we built our video library: “I have taught for 17 years. In that time, I have seen ten other teachers teach. Since having Teaching Channel in our district, I have seen 100 teachers teach during the first four months of the year. Unbelievable!” Every day, through video comments, Q&A posts, and emails we hear statements like this, and it drives our work.
As many will do at this time of year, we’ve been reflecting. Thanks to you, it was a terrific year for Teaching Channel. First, our audience continued to grow, and today we have over 645,000 registered educators in our community. This is incredibly important because it signals that teachers find what we are producing valuable. Your registration influences foundations and corporations who are sponsoring new video series and tools for us. In addition, it matters to school districts, the Department of Education, and to many of our partners who care about making sure educators are getting the support they need.
In 2012, we launched Teaching Channel Teams, an interactive, collaboration platform that we license to districts, schools, and PD organizations to foster educator collaboration around video. We think video is important in two critical ways:
- It helps all of us see ways to teach that we may not be familiar with, and
- It helps us see what we’re actually doing in the classroom when we examine our own teaching practice.
A New School Year and Another Milestone…
Numbers don’t always tell the full story, but numbers do count. We’ve had some great numbers lately:
Hours of video footage from what’s happening in your classrooms.
The number of teachers who’ve appeared in Teaching Channel videos.
Videos of classroom practice, strategies, teaching philosophies, and ideas to help make us all better.
We are having a great Teacher Appreciation Week here at Teaching Channel. We are giving away prizes all week long, and our office is reminiscing about our favorite teachers. This week is filled with inspiration, fun, and humor. But one week is simply inadequate to express appropriate appreciation to the great teachers I’ve known, worked with, watched, and been taught by. One of the teachers in our new Teachers Are… video puts it this way, “Teachers want to make a difference.” And we have to do everything in our power to support their important work because they do make a difference.
We often feel in awe after filming a great teacher in action. We wish we could award each and every one of them a medal of honor for opening up their classrooms to let us document their work. They trust that we believe — like them — that perfection isn’t the goal here. It’s all about growing our practice so we can help students find confidence and success in their academic lives.
When we went inside Suney Park’s classroom at Eastside College Preparatory School in East Palo Alto, California, we knew we were in for something special. Besides being brave, she is a teacher who wears her passion for learning on her sleeve. She is fun, engaging, thoughtful, and as committed to her own growth as she is to her students’.
Recently, we found out that Suney will be awarded a Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST), one of the nation’s highest honors for teachers. We’re so excited for her! As part of her application, Suney submitted her video series on a climate change lesson. Today it is still one of our most popular. And in her classroom practice videos, you can see how thoughtful she is in planning an engaging lesson that relates to real-world issues. Her video “Learn by Leading” shows how she helps students take ownership of their own learning. In “Scientists & Scholars: What’s in a Name?” we see how she creates an aspirational environment that’s grounded in mutual respect and academic expectations.