Maya values being able to meaningfully react to student questions. As a social studies teacher at a school with structural flexibility, hear how she can be creative with content:
As guidance lead, Rebeca really respects how flexible and creative the teachers at her school are. Listen to how these teachers blend different curricula for deeper learning:
As an ELL teacher, Flavia creates her own curricula and activities. Hear about her experiment with having students "read" a book that has no words:
Educators who are burnt-out or have a fixed work-life balance are more likely to use and advocate for traditional approaches.
The high stress school environment and the need for job security can lead teachers to feel stuck and burnt-out with nowhere else to go. We spoke with a former longtime teacher who currently coaches other teachers at a mid-sized urban school. She described how disheartening and understandable it is when tenured teachers burnout, given the pressures of the job and the need to hold tightly to the benefits of health insurance and salary. We heard from both teachers and principals that some faculty members are “clocking in and clocking out,” doing the bare minimum required. This frequently equates to using traditional methods, getting through content, and teaching to the test. With known content and methods, teachers can minimize how much of their personal time is impacted by taking work home with them. A few teachers described situations where colleagues created a destructive and politically sensitive workplace, asking them to not engage in certain methods or activities that would deepen learning because it would “make [their colleagues] look bad” in comparison.
Educators who identify as creative and adaptive are more likely to thrive in situations where they are deepening learning.
We spoke with teachers who had a range of experiences, from being in their 2nd to their 26th year in the classroom. Many participants spoke of their personal creativity as an integral part of their success as educators. Teachers who identified as creative valued environments where they were given opportunities to invent, experiment, and iterate in response to student feedback. Teachers who had elective classes spoke about how flexibility with content allowed them to be more creative and therefore engage students more deeply. As school environments are in a constant state of movement, educators who identify as creative and adapt with change can thrive versus survive. For example, one teacher who had been teaching for 10 years at a small urban school told us about a massive shift in school leadership and mission that occurred during her time there. Despite her favorable experiences with the initial school mission, she adapted to the current one and said, “If you can’t change, you’re going to get left behind.” We spoke with teachers who got creative energy from their work. They talked about their “obsession” with what and how they might deepen learning. For these individuals, they are motivated by their purpose as educators and the lines between work and life are blurred.