A New Year, a New Chance to Help Teachers Teach

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The principal of a Brooklyn high school looks forward to the year ahead.

Phil Weinberg Phil Weinberg

We were in the hallways helping ninth graders find their way to the gym while 12th graders sauntered by, blithely ignoring that they nervously asked these same questions just a few short years ago.

Noise, good spirited noise, filled the building. It felt comfortable and familiar. This is school. And this is a new school year. New teachers worked on finding their voice. Those of us who know the school well began to experiment with incorporating all the new things we plan to do this year into our practice.

Some of those new things are very exciting. This year all of us in New York City's public schools will be experimenting with ways to implement the Common Core State Standards in our lessons.

The standards themselves are good, but what is so promising about this initiative is that it may signal a shift in the discourse around education.

Implementing the Common Core State Standards will require us to engage in thoughtful discussions about how, and what, we should teach. Citywide, even nationally, I hope we are moving away from our dependence on statistics and beginning an authentic dialogue about teaching and learning. For most educators it has been disappointing that in recent years such questions have been obscured by our focus on testing and accountability.

Additionally, our school, the High School of Telecommunication Arts and Technology in Brooklyn, will be part of a pilot program looking to increase and improve the feedback that we give to teachers. That feedback will be based upon a rubric the Department of Education is adapting which was originally devised by Charlotte Danielson.

It is a daunting proposition for both our teachers and administrators, given the demands already placed on everyone's time, but our staff knows that the improvement of instruction is our chief responsibility.

I watched our teachers begin to wrestle with the language of the rubric and its implication for their practice during the professional development time we had before the students arrived. The discussions were inspiring! It was great to begin a communitywide conversation about what we believe quality instruction looks like, and to compare our thoughts with the Danielson rubric.

We look forward to evaluating the rubric’s validity and efficacy, and I believe our participation will be instructive for us and for the school system at large. Ideally this, too, is a step in the direction toward real conversation about education and away from our present focus on easily digestible statistics. If so, it will serve our students well.

The beginning of each school year is always like this. We anticipate being challenged and working hard, we wonder if we can meet the many demands that will be placed upon us, and of course we hope that this is the year we finally get it all right.