Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Pinterest: What I learned in New York About How Teachers Collaborate

November 05, 2013

Earlier this month, while sitting in a New York City classroom and watching a teacher give a lesson, two thoughts occurred to me simultaneously. First, teaching is really hard. Really hard. But second, when you reach your students, like this teacher did, it’s also extremely rewarding.

The magic in classrooms like the one I visited doesn’t happen by accident. Long before the first bell rings, and long after the students have boarded buses home, teachers devote hours to preparation. Yet even with all their responsibilities and time constraints, the teachers I met in New York told me they want to do even more: They have a strong desire to improve their craft, and they take opportunities to do so when they get the chance.

My trip allowed me to talk face-to-face with teachers about the challenges they face in the classroom. This is absolutely the best part of my job. I love seeing the impact of the work we’re doing on people’s lives. In all my conversations, one message came through loud and clear. When it comes to solving the tough challenges teachers have to deal with, the best resources teachers have are other teachers, including colleagues at other schools.

I met with a group of teachers using social media to collaborate. One of them said, “All I had to do is write and say I’m teaching fractions, and I get five great responses back.” Two others who teach the same subject at different schools told me they connect online at night to share ideas for the next day. Another teacher told me about Teachers on Pinterest, a new online community where grade school teachers are sharing everything from lesson plans to classroom decorating ideas. It’s inspiring to hear about teachers empowering themselves by making creative use of new tools like Pinterest to get the support they need.

The teachers I met with in the Bronx are deeply committed to their profession and to their students. It was inspiring to see them in action.

I hope you’ll read my interview with Education Week Assistant Editor Stephen Sawchuk for more reflections from my trip, including on my conversations with teachers about implementing the Common Core.
 
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