Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Let’s Talk! Listening and Learning from Teachers

December 10, 2015

If more of us entered into conversation with teachers and got to hear them talk about whats possible for our kids and our classrooms, wed be a lot more optimistic about education. I know I am.

--Melinda Gates


We share Melinda Gates’ deep optimism for our classrooms and students.  Throughout our careers, we’ve had the immense privilege to learn with and from incredible teachers.  We’ve made listening and learning from teachers a priority in all that we’ve done and will continue to do at the foundation.  Through our own experiences, and through compelling evidence, we know that the most powerful in-school factor in student success is an effective teacher.  Since the strategy began in 2008, we’ve learned so much from teachers, and in so many ways.  Sharing what we’ve learned not only helps inform the broader education field, but calls all of us to action on their behalf.  If knowledge is power, it’s our responsibility to empower everyone the best we can to help teachers help students do better by sharing what we know and encouraging dialogue in the education space.  And that’s why we’ve created a new series, Let’s Talk.   


In one of our first two Let’s Talk editions, Nobody Knows Teaching Like Teachers, we’ve sought to better understand teachers’ ideas and capture their experiences in their own words.  We wanted to know, What are teachers saying when unprompted?  What issues are at the forefront?  These stories are compilations—not summaries— of teachers’ own words from thousands of conversations, interviews, surveys and social media.  Reflected are patterns that emerged through close analysis of what teachers are saying online in edchats, blog posts, and tweets.  As you’ll read, these narratives are windows into how teachers view everything – their classrooms, their profession, and the education system as a whole. 


What teachers say they want comes across loud and clear:


  • Teachers need opportunities to build relationships with one another, swap ideas, and exchange meaningful feedback.  Teachers are life-long learners, and want communities where they can learn from colleagues.  They don’t want to be isolated in their classrooms trying to figure out how to grow and develop on their own.  Teachers want time to access the experts they trust most – other teachers. 

  • Teachers need planning time, resources, and the freedom to make tough calls.  Many good teachers are burning out, losing their passion, and leaving the profession because they don’t have the respect they need from school systems and parents.  Real change must happen with teachers, not to them.   

  • Teachers need a new career ladder.  Teachers need opportunities to pursue ‘hybrid’ roles that include paths to leadership and mentorship.  Many teachers aspire to grow professionally in ways that the classroom alone cannot provide. 


    To help teachers connect and access the expertise of each other, we’ve supported the creation of a robust community where teachers can lean on each other.  Teacher2Teacher is being co-built with teacher leaders to shape a space where teachers can connect to share ideas and resources, support one another, and elevate and celebrate the profession.


    Within Teacher2Teacher, is a combination of digital and face-to-face activities.  There’s been a series of regional salons where small groups of teachers come together to discuss, collaborate, and learn from each other.  ECET2 (Elevating and Celebrating Effective Teaching and Teachers), is another face-to-face activity where a large network of teachers organize national, regional, and local convenings to inspire colleagues, develop attendees’ leadership potential, and improve the teaching practice to better serve students.  To date, there have been over 20,000 teachers who have participated in ECET2 convenings across the country.


    Digitally, there are online collaborations like #whyiteach, inspiring teachers to share what motivates them through an interactive experience.  And there are robust communities growing on Twitter at @Teacher2Teacher and Facebook.


    We hope you’ll sign up to stay up to date with the Let’s Talk series, and share what you’re learning as well - because together, there isn’t anything we can’t do.


    It’s not too late to register for the Let’s Talk online conversation on December 17, 2015 at 11:00-12:00pm PST and dig into the findings and learn more about upcoming releases. 


I dont need to be empowered; I know what I want to do, why I want to do it, and I trust myself to get the job done. I need you to recognize the challenges I face and create solutions. Dont empower me. Share power.

--Jeffery Cipriani, Teacher



When you are a teacher in your class with your kids, you can get very myopic. Its difficult to get perspective. You can reflect better on your own practice when you listen to other teachers and hear what they are doing.


--Darren Burris, Teacher

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