Teaching and learning in the ‘new.’

When the means of assessing growth and development cannot effectively measure innovative, essential, novel growth and development, where does the problem lie? In the growth or in the assessment?

Written by Greg O’Loughlin, Founder/Director of The Educators’ Cooperative

This weekend teachers who work in area public, private, and charter schools got together for the first time. I am tempted to say that we got together for the first time in a long time, but the truth of it all is more nuanced than that.

For the first time, these teachers broke bread (OK, it was donuts, but they’re a kind of bread…) and talked over cups of coffee to compare notes about their experiences in different schools and school sectors, to update one another about shared solutions and ongoing collaboration, and to discuss all the ways they’ve grown and developed into different teachers.


Teachers who now teach students who all have access to laptops and connectivity. Teachers who have grappled with an endless number of ways to create, nurture, and sustain relationships with their students and families. Teachers who have spent countless hours researching, and teaching themselves and their students new technologies, new platforms, and new ways of instruction. Teachers who have.

Another part of the truth about this meeting is that this gathered group consisted of multiple teachers from each of the previous 5 cohorts of The Educators’ Cooperative. We’ve been facilitating these monthly coffee meetings for more than 5 years now, but this was the first time we’d met in person, in the ‘new’.

We spent the last year longing for access to math manipulatives, art supplies, white boards, marginalia, and more. We have been eager for safe, and predictable face-to-face interactions with our students to provide them with feedback and connection.


And now that we are slowly and safely finding ways to do these things, we are also reassessing so many parts and pieces of our day to day.

We are asking and exploring, what is worth keeping and what do we need to throw overboard now that we know better?

We know the value of connection and relationships in ways and to degrees we’ve never had reason to know them as well as the necessary elements to create and support them.


We know that all of our students now have access to technology and the support needed to use it in a way that has never been true before.

We know that there is great flexibility in hours, expectations, routines, and lesson delivery.

We know that we are capable of things we never knew about ourselves — our tenacity with technology, our elasticity with meetings, emails, and video calls, our adaptability with changing news, headlines, and circumstances.

We know that the fabric of our community — the reliability of the connection points between city-wide health, education, infrastructure, news, and accountability are all vital to the systems of effective teaching and learning and we know the ways in which we teachers are essential to all of it.

What remains to be seen is whether or not all of this growth, all of these advancements, all of these changes, adaptations, improvements, and solutions will be tidily dismissed as necessary to make it through a crazy year, or if all of this ‘new’ that we are now exploring will be allowed to radically change the way we do what we do as teachers, as school leaders, and as members of our communities. Just as curious will be if the sheer volume of this growth will be detected in the means of measurement used to assess how well a teacher is doing.

If the measures used to assess our growth and effectiveness aren’t sensitive enough to register this transformational shift, it’s not us who needs to change, it may be the assessment. Either way, there’s no going back to ‘normal’, there’s only going forward towards the ‘new’.

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.

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