This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
But through massive budget cuts, a record number of school closings, and widespread staff layoffs, many Philadelphia teachers believe their voices have been lost in the shuffle.
It’s one of the reasons that a coalition of Philadelphia educators is getting together to reimagine their role in the landscape of public education.
"We’re like what I call ‘teacher-preneurs’ – we’re coming up with ways to transform our profession, and we’re not just waiting for people to do it for us," said Samuel Reed III, literacy teacher at Beeber Middle School in West Philly. "We’re doing this collectively, together."
Reed sits on the executive committee of a group of educators – serving District and charter students – that is hosting a series of by-teacher, for-teacher meetings over the next six months.
He says teachers’ talents are often wasted in schools because "we’re just not allowed to lead in ways that would transform our schools."
The convenings – funded by a $75,000 Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation grant managed in partnership with the Philadelphia School District and the Philadelphia Education Fund – aim to change that trend by fostering teacher, student, and community voice in Philadelphia’s public schools.
"If you can bring teachers together, give them the opportunity to collaborate and network, you can accomplish a lot of positive stuff," said Darren Spielman, president and CEO of the Ed Fund. Classrooms become hubs for innovation, he said, while teacher satisfaction skyrockets.
Networking groups such as Teacher Action Group, the Caucus of Working Educators, Teachers Lead Philly, Philadelphia Writing Project, PhillyCORE, and PhilaSoup have combined to help stage and spread the word about the events.