"Do the teachers like you?"

Written by Eric Schwarz, Founding CEO of Citizen Schools and author of The Opportunity Equation, launching Sept. 2

Of all the questions I get about Citizen Schools, perhaps the most frequent is: “Do the teachers like you?” Many questioners seem conditioned to expect the worst of public school teachers and assume that a second shift of educators, offering different approaches and taking less or no pay, will inspire resentment from the full-time teachers who lead classes for a majority of the day.

Generally, however, America’s teachers have embraced Citizen Schools and embraced an expanded learning day and citizen power in their schools. While a few teachers may react defensively and hide behind the closed door of their classrooms, the best teachers welcome any help they can get. Teachers’ unions as well have generally embraced Citizen Schools. As stated earlier, American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten visited the Edwards ELT [Expanded Learning Time] campus and declared it in a New York Times column, “one of the most impressive schools I have seen in America.” The Boston Teachers Union has gone so far as to explicitly advocate for a nine-plus-hour learning day for all students, with the extra time delivered either by teachers receiving extra pay or by outside programs like Citizen Schools. 

This is the opening of chapter 12 of The Opportunity Equation, my new book that launches in five days. I'm an after-school guy and an expanded learning time guy who believes that extra learning time beyond the traditional school day -- and delivered mostly by folks who aren't certified teachers -- is the unheralded key to lifting up educational opportunity in America. But expanded learning time and Citizen Schools get their power from lifting up and supporting teachers, not trashing them, as too often seems to be the fashion. As the book describes:

Allowing teachers time for pull-out tutoring, giving students extra academic practice time, and engaging parents in their child’s learning are all important ways that Citizen Schools supports teachers. But the most important way we support teachers is by motivating students to try harder in school. By exposing students to exciting real-world projects, Citizen Schools helps make traditional school subjects become more relevant and enticing. All of a sudden a topic sentence becomes a key skill to win a mock trial, not just another academic standard on a long list that needs to be mastered. A student becomes motivated to learn the Pythagorean theorem because it helps unlock the secret of programming a video game.

If you are a teacher now or aspire to be one, I hope you will check out my book and talk about it with colleagues as you continue searching for ways to build your craft and a new paradigm for schooling. If you are a parent, please consider buying the book for your school's library or for a favorite teacher or mentor.

If you are interested in purchasing The Opportunity Equation, you can buy the book from one of six major retailers here.