What's it like to teach and learn in a school collectively run by a group of teachers? In these teacher and student videos, you'll learn first-hand how such an arrangement changes teacher and student motivation. When teachers are managing schools—truly responsible and accountable for the schools' success—they create very distinct, innovative schools.
The teachers and students below are part of "Teacher Professional Partnership" schools. Want more context? Watch our video series introducing the TPP model.
[With autonomy], you can make decisions based on what you know to be the best for your students.
Linda Peters is a veteran teacher and founding member of the ALAS "Cooperative." Here, she discusses the sense of empowerment and pride that ... [expand description]
accompanies coop members' ability to make decisions that specifically address the needs of the students they serve and the bilingual school they manage. At ALAS, Linda says, they have discussions "about what we know as professionals." Based on these discussions, they decide how to shape their curriculum and to allocate funds according to what the students need to learn well. Eliezer, a recent ALAS graduate and current UW-Madison student describes these same teachers as "having the revolutionary instinct". He articulates how his teachers are able to address his needs as a student: they run the school democratically, giving students a strong voice. Without a real voice for the students, teachers must wrestle with the tension between what administrators want and what students want. Eliezer describes the ALAS cooperative as "in a way, like America because...the people, [though] they don't really see it that way, are the ones controlling the ones above, because the ones above are the ones changing things so they can get re-elected."
Students know: Even though it's 'my classroom', it's part of the school community. [Teachers] help each other... This is our school.
Roxane Mayeur, co-lead teacher at Community High School, tells viewers that she and others decided to form a teacher cooperative because it's easier to get teachers to ... [expand description]
take responsibility and be accountable for what they do when they're in the decision-making role. Accountable for the success of the whole school, teachers want one another to be successful, she says. Consequently teachers work together as a whole school community instead of focusing on their individual classrooms. This has a profound impact on students, many of whom for the first time feel that all the adults in the school understand their social background. Teachers are able to get beyond what happened one day in one classroom to collectively motivate the student to graduate. CHS student, Raven, confirms this notion, saying that at CHS, teachers' confidence in addressing students' "bad" behavior is very high due to their dependence on one another. Teachers don't pick out "pets", but are dedicated to helping every student.
Everybody's willing to work in one direction with one focus... They're willing to put in more time and more effort because they really do own what goes on here.
Dee Thomas is a member of EdVisions Cooperative, which was contracted by the LeSueur/Henderson School District to manage the Minnesota New Country School (where Dee teaches and manages). She became a teacher-owner after 17 years... [expand description]
in a conventional school, where she was a teacher and then a principal. Dee says the top perks of working in the TPP include that it is possible to improve the school from the bottom-up and that the teachers themselves select colleagues who accept the culture they've created at the school. At MNCS, the teachers have elected to use project-based learning methods, which means they act as guides to students' pursuing their own learning. While Dee used to teach the same thing day after day, year after year, she is pleased that at MNCS the teachers have created a space where she "never [has] two days that look the same." Zach, a student who came to MNCS two years ago after leaving a conventional school, has been interested in the differences in school culture that emerge from this teaching arrangement. He's especially a fan of the teaching methods: instead of "getting up in front of you and talking...[they] point you in the right direction and say 'go for it.'"
I really feel like I don't have a right to be unhappy here because if I'm frustrated with some of the things we're doing, why don't I work to change it?
Carrie Bakken, the program coordinator at Avalon School "Cooperative", candidly describes her experiences and observations as a teacher-advisor and now administrator (without hierarchical authority) ... [expand description]
with the eight-year-old TPP. She's certain about the sustainability of the model, having been able to maintain the vision despite the founders' departure and through tests of the coop's strength. She describes the cooperative's ability to immediately improve teaching methods without having to wait for approval, and how the teachers maximize their skills to maximize use of financial resources. Carrie also describes the benefits of working collaboratively to make decisions, particularly for the students. "We model having a voice and we try to teach that to them so they don't go out feeling powerless about their future." Jesse, a graduate of Avalon and a current senior at Beloit College, confirms in his interview that the modeling works. He's self motivated as a result, and says that's contributed to his success in college. He describes how the teacher cooperative emphasizes student empowerment, and why in his opinion this just couldn't happen in more conventional settings.