The Current Logo

Why focus on teachers and teacher networks?

Written by Christina Cantrill
February 13, 2014

I was inspired to focus on this after attending the Philadelphia Writing Project Celebration of Writing and Literacy in November which brought three teacher networks including the Philadelphia Teacher Action Group (TAGPhilly),  Teachers Lead Philly, and the Philadelphia Writing Project (PhilWP). In the context of calling for collective teacher action, keynote Anissa Weinraub, a Philadelphia teacher and TAG organizer, says that there is a need to simultaneously defend and also transform public education. “We are at a tipping point” she writes in this essay from the Perspectives in Urban Education Journal.

we are at a tipping point where parents, students, teachers, and community members … are waking up to see, instead, that the priorities of our so-called leaders are not our priorities, and therefore we find ourselves forced to take a stand and work collectively in ways that are very new to all of us.

Teachers Lead Philly works together as a “network of practicing teachers devoted to teacher leadership in Philadelphia” and they define teacher leaders as those that have expertise and experience in teaching and learning; advocate for students and colleagues; are stewards of the teaching profession; as well as are authors of education research and policy at all levels. The key projects they are currently working on according to their website, include studying and taking a position about how to evaluate teacher effectiveness, support for teacher collaboration in and across schools, and examining teacher leadership in general as a network.

Dina Portnoy, a PhilWP teacher and long-time leader education, talks about capacity for teacher leadership and organizing that she and others developed through being part of the PhilWP network and other teacher communities. PhilWP calls itself a “growing teacher network of … teacher consultants who work in a variety of ways with teachers and other educators to explore literacy, writing, teaching, and learning in their classrooms and schools regardless of grade or discipline.” Networking is a deliberate strategy of PhilWP and the larger NWP network to promote necessary and ongoing improvements and change along the way in learning and literacy.

… to succeed in a new environment, a reform that is spreading geographically must also challenge, and eventually, penetrate habitual practice in new contexts. To achieve this, the NWP focusing on professional development and professional networks for teachers. McDonald, Buchanan and Sterling

Kira Baker-Doyle writes about the power of networks and networking for teachers in her book The Networked Teacher. Although primarily focused on new teachers, her work relates to the power of networking, in general, in the field of education, teaching and learning. She writes that “teacher networks and professional learning communities help socialize and guide teachers to become active members of the professional community.” (5). She draws on work by educational researchers who write about networks and communities of practitioners as “sites of learning” (Lieberman, 2000) as well as refers to sociologists such as Manuel Castells and his notion of a “networked society” to place this idea of networking in a larger more global context:

The emerging centrality of social networks and networking to our lives is a societal phenomenon. The concept of consciously developing a social network has become ingrained in the ways we think about making friends, getting jobs, and managing business or organizations. (2-3)