Friday, July 27, 2007


July Feature: Jennifer Jackson

This month Jennifer Jackson will be talking about her experiences in the classroom, her ideas on teaching and education research, and her philosophy for embracing change. Jennifer just joined Center for Inspired Teaching as a Research Associate after four years in the classroom and a Master’s degree in Urban School Psychology. She has devoted her career to enhancing education opportunities for students and continues to employ her professional experience and academic background to inspiring change in the classroom.

Part I: The Importance of Teacher Networks

Jennifer’s introduction to teaching was rocky: she was so frustrated with her experience at her first school that she quit mid-year. “It was difficult. Very difficult. There were a lot of students who were only two or three years younger than me. My first year, I quit because I was so frustrated.”

Jennifer didn’t give up though. She started her second teaching job the next year and resolved to do things differently. Quickly, she realized that one of the most important resources available to her as a teacher, especially a new teacher, was the advice, perspective, and institutional knowledge of other teachers in the school.

Throughout the year Jennifer worked with other teachers in her school to create lesson plans, share classroom management strategies, and discuss student progress. The community of teachers collaborating and supporting each other empowered Jennifer; she no longer felt isolated in her classroom but part of a larger effort to educate her students. Jennifer recounts, “It made a big difference. Before that I was not able to build strong relationships with my students. Having that support stopped me from feeling like ‘I’m a first year teacher, this is my classroom, you handle yours.’ That collective attitude helped me out.”

In addition to gaining useful advice from her colleagues, Jennifer felt supported by a community of like-minded and compassionate educators. She discovered that many of the frustrations and challenges she experienced were common to other teachers. As such, she no longer had to work through her struggles alone but instead could work within a supportive group that motivated her to succeed.

Creating a teacher network within or outside a school community is a valuable resource for educators. As Jennifer learned, “You may not have all the answers. To be connected to someone else is really important.”

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Teachers are the Solution

All summer teachers in our Inspired Teaching Institute have expressed concern and worry about all the press surrounding upheaval and change in DC's school system.

We've taken the opportunity to remind them that while the system may struggle to find its financial and administrative footing, the real solution has been right in front of us all along. Teachers are the solution.

Given high expectations and effective training and support so they can reach those expectations, teachers could have the power to change the way DC’s children are educated. We’ve worked with thousands of DC educators over the years and have seen what is possible when teachers do what it takes to ensure every child in their care reaches his full potential.

When teachers recognize that even struggling students have an innate desire to learn, and then meet that desire with instruction that is relevant, challenging, and engaging, students excel, teachers enjoy their jobs, and schools improve.

We have been pleased to see new Chancellor Michelle Rhee quoted as saying “good teachers are the key to improving schools.”

D.C.’s educational system will improve when we devote as much time and energy to our teachers as we do to the politicians and policies that govern our schools.

Friday, July 13, 2007

FUNdraising Fridays

Center for Inspired Teaching works in its community and schools to build a better life for our children and our world. I am excited (and hope you will be too!) about this week's opportunities that promote cross-cultural understanding and communication across international borders. This will surely add a multicultural richness to your classroom as you prepare your students for the future as informed and critical thinking global citizens.

In particular, please take advantage of Youth Connect Online and the Sudan Project.

Have a happy weekend!


Opportunities for Students

Disney Minnie Grants Available to Support Youth Service Projects

Deadline: August 30, 2007

The Walt Disney Company and Youth Service America have announced grants of up to $500 each to support youth-led service projects.

These grants support youth (ages 5-14) in planning and implementing service projects in their community. Teachers, older youth (15-25), youth-leaders, and youth-serving organizations are also eligible to apply, provided that they engage younger youth (5-14) in planning and implementing the service. Service projects must take place between October 1 and November 26, 2007.

Projects can address themes such as the environment, disaster relief, public health and awareness, community education, hunger, literacy, or any issue that youth identify as a community need. Applications are welcome from all countries, though applications will only be accepted in English.

Grant information is available at the Youth Service America Web site in English, French, Spanish, Russian, Hindi, and Mandarin (although applications are in English and can only be accepted in English).

Opportunities for Teachers

Educate globally with Youth Connect Online

If you would like to heighten your students' cultural awareness, consider getting involved with Youth Connect Online. This project connects schools in the United States with schools abroad through a series of web-based collaborative activities and exchanges. Students across borders discuss issues that matter to them and participate in joint activities that promote cultural understanding, tolerance, and a sense of belonging to the world. Youth Connect Online provides an internationally-minded curriculum which adapts easily to many classes, including history, civics, journalism, art, science, technology, and others.

The Youth Connect Worldwide project is co-sponsored by the Department of State and Relief International – Schools Online and connects classrooms in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, the Palestinian Territories, Tajikistan and the United States. For more information or to join this exciting program, contact Education Programs Officer Andreea Florescu at (202) 296-1616 or via e-mail at

Opportunities for Communities and Schools

Introducing… the Sudan Project

Documentary filmmaker Karin Muller is looking for schools interested in making documentary films about Sudanese refugees. Next summer, Ms. Muller will spend 8-12 weeks in a Sudanese refugee camp, filming both the individual stories of the refugees and their broader physical and political context. This footage will then be made available to the US and European high school systems. Three to seven schools with both the video resources and technical expertise will take on the additional task of filming these students as they edit the footage. The ultimate goal of the Sudan Project is to document how a group of "typical" American teenagers are profoundly changed by the experience of trying to tell the story of the Sudanese refugees. At the end of the project, the documentaries will be submitted to film festivals.

If your school might like to get involved with this project, please email Karin Muller at If you receive an auto-reply, don't worry. Ms. Muller is traveling some this summer, but she will get back to you.

Toshiba American Foundation Supports K-12 Math and Science Education

Eligiblity: Independent school districts, nonprofit organizations, and individuals.
Deadline: August 1, 2007
Funds: Awards up to $5,000

Toshiba America Foundation supports programs and activities that improve science and mathematics education for students in grades K-12. The Foundation's priorities are projects planned and led by a teacher or teams of teachers.

Visit the Toshiba American Foundation Web site for more details.

Dollar General Offers Back-to-School Grants

Deadline: August 10, 2007

The Dollar General Back-to-School Grants provide funding to assist elementary, middle, and high schools in meeting some of the financial challenges they face in implementing new programs or purchasing new equipment, materials, or software for their school library or literacy program.

Funds requested must be used to enhance or expand the school's library, media center, or literacy programs. Submissions will be judged based on creativity, statement of need, and use of funds. Programs may address the needs of new readers, below-grade-level readers, readers with learning disabilities, or for general literacy.

Applicants must be located in Dollar General's 35-state operating territory and must be within twenty miles of a Dollar General Store. (A store locator is available at the Dollar General Web site.) Grants may be requested in amounts of up to $5,000 each.

The Back-to-School Grant application can be downloaded at the Dollar General Web site.