Grow Your Own Teachers
Grow Your Own Teachers —
Grassroots Change For Teacher Education
Edited by Elizabeth A. Skinner, Maria Theresa Garreton, and Brian D. Schultz
Teachers College Press: March 2011, New York and London: 208 pp.
Amid relentless news reports about school districts compelled to lay off teachers during a particularly challenging budget season, this may seem more like fantasy than non-fiction. Do we even have a political and economic climate that would encourage champions of school reform to follow the authors’ prescription and bravely “grow your own?”
Set that grim reality aside to consider the proposals set forth in this provocative and intriguing book, which is part of Teaching for Social Justice series from Teachers College Press.
The essential idea, which started in Chicago and then branched out to the state, is that a unique collaboration among public schools, community organizations and teacher training programs could transform public education. The Grow Your Own teacher reform movement recognizes that the problems of recruiting and retaining excellent teachers particularly plague urban schools with large minority student populations.
So why not recruit and train teachers from within the communities that so desperately need qualified and committed teachers? After all, who else has a stronger stake in success for these students, who are their children and their neighbors?
“Selected GYO teacher candidates can be described as insiders in this way. Many are paraprofessionals working in community schools, parents of school-age children attending these schools, have attended these schools themselves, or have been active community members. Their investment in neighborhood schools also qualifies them as strong advocates for change. They can work effectively with parents because they live in the community, have direct and intimate experiences within it, and many are parents themselves…this effort for ‘homegrown’ future educators can be considered as an ‘anti-Teach for America’ reform initiative,” the authors write.
No one contributing to this thoughtful volume suggest that making these changes will be easy. But they are clearly worth considering, especially for the sake of the students who need dedicated and qualified teachers the most. #