December 2, 2016
I love teachers. My son is a teacher. Some of the best people I know are teachers. Recently I’ve had some really candid conversations with teachers.
I have a favor to ask. In the next few weeks, reach out to a teacher and simply ask, “How’s your school year going?” Then just listen. You might hear these words: overworked, underappreciated, and exhausted.
Teaching is a really hard job, especially in low-performing schools. Many of my teacher-friends feel more like social workers; working with parents who aren’t engaged, driving towards high-stakes standardized testing, and controlling students whose behavior is getting worse.
My friends say they can’t sustain this level of intensity throughout a career. It’s no surprise that between 40-50% of teachers will leave the classroom within their first five years (that includes the 9% that leave before the end of their first year!).
I mention all this because it’s a good reminder of the value of Milwaukee Succeeds: success for every child, in every school, cradle to career. We can’t put the burden of improving our community on our school systems – and our teachers - alone.
This is also what I am hearing:
- "We cannot surrender.”
- “We have many assets in Milwaukee that we need to tap.”
- “The voice of divisiveness can not continue louder than the voice of unity.”
- “We need to replace the anger and hatred with love and understanding. We owe this to our children.”
- “Our children need to see our leaders working together to solve problems regardless of our differences.”
- “We need to focus positively. People are tired of the ugly, negative dynamics.”
- “We need to respect one another even if we have differences.”
Milwaukee Succeeds addresses those concerns. We bring everyone to the table to improve conditions for kids no matter what type of school they attend in Milwaukee. For those new to our partnership, Milwaukee Succeeds is part of StriveTogether Cradle to Career Network, a national network of 68 community partnerships in 32 states and Washington D.C.
So how does this help my overwhelmed teacher-friend lower the stress level in the classroom?
That’s where Strive’s “Theory of Action” framework comes in. The framework (see below) helped Milwaukee Succeeds test the effectiveness of a promising strategy: literacy coaching for teachers. We started with two schools, grew to seven, and moved to sixteen. The “Theory of Action” framework helped us measure and continuously improve the strategy, make small tests of change and then scale up.