The Center for Teacher Growth and Renewal creates spaces for teachers to engage in authentic conversation, inspired exploration, and sustained action toward the aim of meaningful educational experiences for themselves, for their students, and for their communities.
Through workshops offered by teachers for teachers, educators explore the relationship between who they are and what they do. The confluence of these identities is where powerful and transformational teaching resides. But to get there, to find this nexus, teachers must have opportunities to learn about and express their beliefs about the world, about education, and about their passions and purposes therein. Through this wisdom of connection, teachers create a wholeness of practice that aligns their beliefs and actions in the thoughtful service of students and themselves.
The Center's aim is to care for those who care for our children, to foster teachers’ well-being so that they can, in turn, foster the well-being of our youth. This well-being emanates from the confluence of self-awareness and research-based professional practices as they intersect in Perceptive Teaching.
Perceptive teaching, as introduced in Lesson Planning with Purpose: Five Approaches to Curriculum Design (McConnell, Conrad, & Uhrmacher, 2020, Teachers College Press) describes the intersection of research on culturally responsive teaching and educational motivation. Perceptive teachers acknowledge the relationship between who they are—open minded, aware, caring, and authentic—with what they do—personalize the educational experience, teach the whole person, teach with intention, and support the development of autonomy. This awareness aligns with five curriculum design approaches meant to help teachers bring together their strengths and interests with intentional lesson planning toward the aim of meaningful educational experiences for all involved.
This work is imperative now, in this moment, because the profession and its constituents are in crisis. The demands of this work are driving many away from the classroom, and fewer new teachers are entering the profession. The work of teachers can be exhausting physically, emotionally, and spiritually, and more than half of them are considering leaving the profession. This is a crisis for our students, as well as for our teachers. Certainly, education has always been political, but more recently it has become the place where politics collide, the place of heroes and villains, where teachers are simultaneously said to be saving and destroying our children and their futures.
Even before the pandemic, the Economic Policy Institute declared that the “teacher shortage is real, large, growing, and worse than we thought….and high poverty schools are suffering the most.” They note three main causes: low pay, challenging school environments, and weak professional development support and recognition. The latter fuels The Center.
Not only is the state of the profession dire, but efforts to “fix” teachers are often top down and externally sourced; professional development is done to teachers rather than with or for them. The Center addresses this crisis by working directly with teachers to develop deep skills in perceptive teaching and meaningful curriculum design as well as to provide opportunities to share wisdom with others through reciprocal and on-going workshops. We aim to reinvigorate the call to teach, to deepen the commitment to the Work.