By Angela Harvey-Bowen, NAATE Facilitator and Senior Director of School Partnerships
No pain, no gain, right?
Countless times have we heard that mantra when it comes to getting in shape and showing up in the world in new and better ways. This same mantra pops into my head each time a new cohort of teachers begins the experience that is NAATE.
NAATE Teacher Fellows would likely define the NAATE experience by its long days and even longer nights. Being “in it” can feel like pulling consecutive “all-nighters” that many of us associate with the night before the SAT, the due date for our senior thesis, or that really powerful lesson we are going to deliver to students the day after an important and compelling current event. NAATE provides a platform for the kind of deep, authentic learning that participants never forget, and it is crafted for mid-career professionals—it is built on the premise that experience matters. NAATE understands that experience must be leveraged for meaningful professional growth.
For five years teacher leaders from diverse organizations have used NAATE cases and sessions to push their thinking in uncomfortable ways, all in the name of becoming better for their students. It is fascinating to watch teacher leaders, some of the highest performing in the country, enter into conversations about their crafts. Many enter the classroom with a specific perspective and strong opinions. After 90-minutes of conversation with colleagues, the same people leave the classroom questioning what they’ve been doing in their classrooms, excited at the prospect of how they can grow. NAATE elicits deep reflection from participants; people who have been lauded as the best in their field leave the program knowing that they can always be better. A NAATE teacher leader recently told me, “This highly-effective status they’ve given me means nothing. There’s more that I can do to make sure my students are succeeding.” The power of a reflection like that, from a well-respected fixture of the classroom, gives me goose bumps. It makes me question the extent to which I served my own students as well as I could have during my decade in the classroom.
NAATE’s programming continues to push the envelope on what it means to invest in the folks who are doing right by kids every day. Teachers, (specifically teacher leaders), confront a paradox as they gain more experience: too often, the only way to “grow” professionally in the school setting is to leave the classroom. For many teachers, leaving the classroom is often the last thing they want to do. As teacher leaders move through the NAATE program, I often field questions like, “Where has this program been?” and “Why didn’t I have something like this in grad school?” Upon completing the NAATE program (or even upon the conclusion of a singular 5- or 10-day session), teacher leaders remark of renewed passion for their craft as well as renewed commitment to their practice and students. This is powerful stuff that inspires me and my work with NAATE.
NAATE might not solve every problem that teacher leaders confront in their own development, but it fills a significant void in the mind, heart, and soul of its fellows. It can be a powerful introduction to the second chapter in a teacher’s career. As teachers and teacher leaders continue to pour their very souls into their students and colleagues they hold so dear, I can only hope that their organizations will continue to send them to NAATE to themselves be filled.
Angela Harvey-Bowen is a facilitator for our NAATE case studies, and Senior Director of our School Partnerships Team. Prior to joining the NAATE team, she worked in school districts in Baltimore, Rochester, and Los Angeles.