I am a teacher at Martin Luther King, Jr. Middle School in San Francisco.
In my school, more than 80% of students qualify for free meals, and almost 70% are English learners. At schools like MLK, it’s easy to see the many systemic issues that impact the quality of a public school education—for example, inequitable access to funding, information, and resources; limited access to health services; and increasing segregation. Sometimes it feels like there’s nothing that can help fix such a broken system.
Maybe it feels that way because I’m still relatively new to the profession; this is just my second year of teaching. Like most educators, I earned my credential in one year and became a full-time classroom teacher in the following year. I have come to see that credentialing programs are not long enough to prepare people to lead their own classrooms, no matter how good their preparation programs are.
Along with more pre-service training for teachers, one thing I’ve always known would make a huge difference is either more professionals in every classroom or smaller classes because my current workload leaves me feeling stretched very thin. In between planning lessons, creating materials, teaching lessons, grading work, and interacting with families, I have very little free time to plan with other teachers and reflect on my work, and I’m exhausted. I used to feel that I was on my own at work and that people in San Francisco don’t know and don’t care about what’s going on in our public schools and the kids I work with every day.
For the past several months, I have felt less alone in my teaching because I have been receiving support from Partners in School Innovation. From day one, our School Innovation Partner, Amanda Bachelor, has been available to support my colleagues and me in all the big and small ways that we need help. For example, my fellow 7th grade English teacher and I had been very willing to plan together at the start of the year, but neither of us had the energy or leadership skills to make that happen so we were both basically making things up as we went along. Fortunately, Amanda came in and helped us form basic plans. Throughout the rest of the year, she supported us in creating and assessing student work, which helped us continually reflect upon and update our plans. The impact that her support has had on my teaching and my students has been tremendously positive.
Partners in School Innovation has also helped empower MLK’s staff members to lead efforts to fix the school. Partners has helped us develop a professional learning community at our school, specifically our instructional leadership team and Culture Club team. Teacher leaders on these teams are currently helping staff members build meaningful relationships with each other and facilitating authentic collaboration around curriculum and school culture, with a focus on equity.
No doubt I will continue to learn throughout my entire teaching career, but having support from Partners during my second year has helped accelerate my professional growth dramatically. Many of my fellow teachers at MLK are like me in being relatively new to teaching; they have also benefitted greatly from the extra support.
At the beginning of this year, I gave myself permission to end my teaching career in June. It was really heart-breaking to contemplate that because I love my students, co-workers, and school. But the work felt too hard; I wasn’t able to see successes happening in my own classroom or at the school in general. Amanda has provided another set of eyes in my classroom and has helped me see the progress that we are making. I feel like we’re on the right track to create equitable access to education for our kids. Thanks to her, and the rest of the amazing staff at MLK, I’ll be teaching at the school next year and for many more years to come.
Katie Carter, Teacher