All Teachers Are “Developing”

David Edelman
3 min readJan 21, 2016

When I entered the classroom nine years ago as a fresh-faced, enthusiastic teacher, I quickly found myself struggling in isolation. I had little to no understanding of the teaching and learning going on in my colleagues’ classrooms next door. Way too often, teachers are expected to know how to best meet the needs of 100+ students right off the bat, or figure it out on their own. In my case, I was expected to limit or hide my desire to seek guidance and only pursue professional development outside of my school, in fear of being labelled as incompetent or “in need of improvement.” Support amounted to a short list of generalized recommendations, commendations, a pat on the back, a wag of the finger or a rating.

My first years in the classroom could have been so much better. In a nation in which the bar for rigor is constantly being raised, teachers need access to effective professional learning before and after they are given the keys to the classroom. When I talk to other teachers about their training, I regularly hear about inconsistent student teaching experiences. One teacher taught a class every day, another only once a week. None of the teachers with whom I’ve spoken shared stories of collaborating with other staff members, engaging in conversations with school leaders, or analyzing student work in teacher teams. Yet these are the same practices that are proven to foster instructional cohesion and best meet students’ needs. Revamping teacher prep, and increasing ongoing, job-embedded professional learning, ensures that teachers are continuously growing and increasing their colleagues’ capacity to serve students.

Frustrated with this systems gap, I decided to pursue a position as a coach for teacher leaders appointed to formal teacher leadership roles in NYC public schools. Leaving the comfort and familiarity of my own classroom to instead coach fellow teachers was a very difficult decision. This crossroads forced me to move beyond the successes and failures of my own classroom and school to think critically about the interplay between leadership and student learning. Namely, what can be done in schools to ensure that all students are being well educated?

There are groups seeking to answer this very question. I am heartened by the TeachStrong campaign, a coalition of over fifty prominent education organizations dedicated to modernizing and elevating the teaching profession. Their nine principles include the need for better training, support, and pay in order to attract and retain excellent teachers in the classroom.

Teacher leaders in NYC receive additional compensation and professional periods in order to foster collaboration by maintaining lab classrooms, organizing inter-visitations for colleagues, providing 1:1 non-evaluative peer coaching, leading teacher team meetings, facilitating school wide professional learning and hosting teachers from other schools. All teachers, novice and experienced, should be perpetually developing. Through working with an array of teachers, often across disciplines, teacher leaders can see an increase in their own reflective capacity and leadership skills.

The only reason I can do this job and coach other teachers is because I receive rigorous job-embedded and ongoing feedback on a regular basis. I am not special. I receive special training and support from accomplished school leaders and my peers. It takes a coach. No one becomes a teacher with the vision of delivering ineffective lessons. Teachers and school leaders need to apply the same growth mindset with their staff that they have with students. Effective teaching is a learned and cultivated skill that is directly related to teacher preparation and access to ongoing professional learning opportunities that make use of coaching, practice and frequent, well-intentioned, actionable feedback. We must be more careful to separate the practitioner from the practice. The systems in place that foster effective teaching need to improve in order to build teachers’ capacity to teach and lead others.

I believe that educators from around the country need to work together to modernize and elevate the profession. Teachers need guidance throughout their careers, opportunities to grow and a range of roles and experiences in service to their school and district. Principals, superintendents, elected officials and parents who want students to receive rigorous and relevant instruction to best prepare them for college and careers must consider making sure teachers are supported with effective, collaborative teacher preparation programs and learning opportunities that should continue after being appointed. It is then that all teachers will be able to #TeachStrong.

David Edelman is a Teacher Team Leader and supports schools in NYC that have staffed teacher leaders as part of the Department of Education’s Teacher Career Pathway initiative. He is a National Teacher Fellow with Hope Street Group, an organization dedicated to promoting economic and social mobility

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David Edelman

David Edelman is a Teacher Team Leader and a National Teacher Fellow with Hope Street Group, an organization dedicated to promoting economic & social mobility