Written by Greg O’Loughlin, High School Teacher and Founder/Director of The Educators’ Cooperative
A year ago, the group of teachers and community leaders that make up the leadership of The Educators’ Cooperative gathered in an attempt to both assess the scale of the crisis we were all facing, and craft an appropriate response.
At the heart of our planning was service. Responding to community needs with collective effort was fresh on our minds and raw in our hands. In the days and weeks preceding this meeting, many of us had spent time responding to families, colleagues, and neighbors who had suffered great losses in the tornados that hit north and east Nashville on March 3rd. These acts of service motivated us to distill the elements of work we do for members of the Cooperative and transform them in a manner that could be brought to bear for the larger education community. We knew that our work was essential to teachers all over the city who were already members, and we wanted to figure out a way to fling the gates wide open to bring this community care and professional support to all teachers, as we were all facing changes and challenges like we’d never imagined.
After a hefty brainstorming session that found us holding up all of our programs and collective resources to the light for scrutiny, we had a dozen different ideas on the table: a clearinghouse of virtual teaching resources, video messages, teams of members crafting virtual lessons for different subjects and grade levels, and more.
Cohort 2 member, and 7th grade Science Teacher Alecia Ford, said, “What EdCo does better than most anything else I’ve been a part of, is center the humanity necessary to the work of teaching — we reduce the isolation of teaching, and that’s going to be more important than ever no matter what’s in store.” She added that we offer feedback, we co-create resources, we share ideas, we offer one another insight, and we consistently center the human elements of our work and shared experiences.
She was right, so we got to work to figure out how we could manage to do that to serve all the teachers of the city. We began making plans for regular and consistent support for all teachers with our human centered approach to professional community building.
That was the start of EdCo’s Collaborates Calls, and in the year since, the teachers of The Educators’ Cooperative have transformed virtual community building for teachers, all by teachers. We have facilitated more than 1,000 participation hours over the course of nearly 200 scheduled calls and workshops. These calls have nurtured collaboration, connection, and community building with teacher-leaders, award-winning artists, principals, professors, and city leaders, and perhaps, most importantly, other teachers who have experienced every twist and turn of this incredible year.
Attendance numbers go up and down depending on countless factors — shifts to hybrid instruction, shifts back to all virtual classes, then back again, breaks, testing schedules — the calendars of educators have seasons more nuanced than Nashville’s many springs. What doesn’t change is that teachers live with the goals, growth, successes, and challenges of their students every day, and go above and beyond to connect with others to find a way forward in spite of unimaginable challenges.
Teachers have sent us notes of gratitude, including “I love seeing the energy and brilliance that teachers have displayed through this,” and “These calls have made teaching in isolation feel less isolated.” We’ve even heard from teachers who want to let us know that while they are not always able to make the calls, the fact that they know that we are here and available to help has done wonders to reducing their feelings of isolation this year, when it has been needed more than ever.
Thanks to the generous support of the Phoenix Club of Nashville and the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee we have been able to grow the program, so that we now offer open, facilitated workshops 5 nights a week and will be able to do so through the end of this school year. We capture nightly the highlights, resources, quotes, and ideas, compiled, indexed, and made available for all teachers here.
Teachers are not only the most important school-based factor in a child’s education, but they are also extraordinarily resilient, creative, tenacious, brilliant members of our community. Night after night, call after call, we share, listen, cry, laugh, create, design, and reflect on our practices in order to better serve all of our students. We are better together and we are lucky to be able to experience reminders of exactly how and why, every night of the week, with some of the most amazing members of our community — teachers.
The Educators’ Cooperative is a non-profit organization that provides a professional learning community for K-12 teachers. Created for teachers by teachers in 2016, EdCo provides professional development and support for educators to collaborate across sectors, disciplines, and career stages. EdCo aims to revolutionize teacher development and leadership by focusing on the essential agency, autonomy, and common ground all teachers share. EdCo is based in Nashville, Tennessee with a reach far beyond that physical location and potential for replication in communities throughout the nation. When educators collaborate, the future of education is greater than the sum of its parts.
Please visit educatorscooperative.com for more information and to sign up for our newsletter.