Impact of a Fund for Teachers Fellowship
Liza Eaton, 2009 Fellow and Director of Programs, The Ramsden Project
In the spring of 2020, Fund for Teachers set out to refine its description of the impact it wants to have on the world. We started by identifying our best fellowships over the past 20 years, and synthesized common elements into the following framework:
Our programming, including our Fellowship, ignites teachers to refine and reimagine teaching and learning in their schools, partnering with students to solve large and small problems in their communities. Beyond the impact of your fellowship, this framework can be a helpful tool in its design.
Fellowship Learning Experiences
First and foremost, strong fellowships are rooted in teachers’ problems of practice. Teachers’ problems of practice are often messy and complex. Rarely is there one solution to these real-world issues in teaching and learning, thus there is a genuine need to inquire, grapple and figure something out. Collaboration becomes necessary, as we extend beyond what we thought possible. Experts in our field, strong models and thought leaders that can help us gain perspective, learn new skills, and content.
Questions to help you Design your Fellowship Learning Experience:
- Seek Opportunity:
- What student needs am I struggling to fill right now?
- In what ways might I develop my understanding and skills to fill these needs?
- Collaborate to Build Solutions:
- Who are my best thought-partners in this work?
- How can I create on-going relationships to amplify my learning and impact?
- Discover Resources:
- What resources will serve as strong models for me and my students?
- Who are experts in the field and how I can maximize time with them?
While fellowship learning experiences often occur during the summer months when schools are closed, the real action happens when teachers return. This is when fellows turn new ideas into change for students. Taking action on their problems of practice extends beyond showing pictures and telling stories, it requires teachers to redesign units, change structures and reimagine their pedagogy. Stepping out of the norm to truly find workable solutions takes guts, and risk taking.
Fellows regularly report their surprise as their fellowship takes paths unimagined. Sometimes the connection with an expert sparks ideas that the teacher never considered, while other times fellows learn important things about themselves. Learning at this deeper level is energizing and enlivening. Powerful learning experiences like the Fund for Teachers fellowships give teachers the opportunity to consider how they can change education to energize and enliven student learning.
Questions to help you Design your Fellowship’s Impact:
- Turn Ideas Into Action:
- What are all of the possible ways I can imagine using my learning to solve my pressing student needs?
- Embrace Risk:
- What about my current practices are fixed? What can/should be changed?
- What can I do prepare myself for learning and impact beyond what I think possible?
- Lead the Way:
- How can I prepare myself for this transformative learning experience?
- What parts of this experience might I replicate for my students?