Kira J. Baker-Doyle’s new book, “Transformative Teachers: Teacher Leadership and Learning in a Connected World” (Harvard Education Press) offers insight on the pulse of teaching and teacher leadership today.
In the first chapter, she introduces readers to Samuel Reed III, a public middle school teacher in Philadelphia who she says “helped to initiate a change in my understanding of transformative teacher learning and leadership in the digital age.” He writes for the Public School Notebook blog “about his work in the field and the classroom, often advocating the idea of ‘flipping the script,’ challenging others to see the strengths of his students and school community rather than focusing on deficits.” An excerpt:
Reed has leadership roles in at least three or four different teacher-led professional development networks in Philadelphia. He hosts poetry slams for his students and community members and has received grant funding for his summer program, BoysWriteNow, in which boys in grades seven through twelve write together and produce essays or poetry for competitions. He has partnered with other teacher-network leaders to develop proposals for policies and activities that promote teacher-led professional development. His school district has adopted the policies and practices.
Reed is an avid fan of Twitter. If you follow him, you’ll see him tweeting frequently, engaging with news reporters and scholars about work that he or other teachers are doing. Reed is difficult to miss, as he is a very active presence both online, in person, and in professional networks. He is, as Grace Lee Boggs says, “critically connected” with members of his personal and professional networks. Reed and the communities in which he has played a leadership role have made a profound impact on education in Philadelphia.
Reed epitomizes the contemporary transformative teacher. He is a passionate public intellectual committed to pursuing social justice and equity for all students through his craft. He is using digital-era cultural tools such as “making,” “hacking,” and “connecting” to design, organize, and lead collective efforts to grow teacher knowledge and agency. Reed is part of a new wave of teacher-led, networked social movements in education that are transforming the concept of the teacher from that of an isolated, passive, technical worker to a connected, socio-politically active, knowledge-building agent of change, and, in turn, taking the lead in shaping the cultures and practices of contemporary teaching and learning.
The term, “transformative teacher” has been used in education literature since the 1990s to describe an educator that seeks to foster positive social change through their work. Yet, since that time, there have been significant changes in the ways in which teachers connect, organize and lead in their profession. This book describes the actions and the qualities of transformative teachers in the connected era and introduces a new developmental framework for educators—and those who want to help them—change the face of teaching. You will read about how transformative teachers are leveraging twenty-first-century connected technologies and participatory practices to take leadership roles in improving education from the ground up. The book describes the future of grassroots teacher leadership and professional development, and how individuals, organizations, and institutions can join in supporting teacher-led, networked social movements.
Baker-Doyle, associate professor of education and director of master’s degree and certificate programs at Arcadia University in Glenside, PA, said “Transformative Teachers” is about how teachers are connecting and leading educational change, particularly from a social justice perspective. The book also is a guide for teachers, educational allies and teacher educators to support transformative teachers in today’s increasingly connected world. Baker-Doyle answered the following questions for DML Central.
Q: Why did you write “Transformative Teachers”?
A: There is a funny story behind this. I began my own blog as a means to get more connected to teacher leaders online. I started a blog series highlighting teachers who were doing amazing things in Philadelphia. I wanted to help amplify their stories and let others know about what teacher leadership and activism looks like today. I called the blog series “Transformative Teacher Profiles.” People really appreciated the series, and I began to realize that there was a real gap in literature that showcased social justice-oriented, connected educators. So, I began a research project on it… and two years later… I had a book on my hands. So, in my efforts to get more connected, I ended up writing about how teachers connect and create change! I hope that it stays true to the original intention — highlighting the work of teachers who are changing education in creative and positive ways.
Q: Who did you primarily write the book for?
A: I wrote the book primarily for teachers and pre-service teachers. There is a mix of “what’s going on today,” and “how to” in the book. However, there is a special chapter devoted to educational allies such as teacher educators, community-based organizations, and larger nonprofit groups. I wanted to make sure those groups walked away from the book with an idea of how to connect with and support teachers. School administrators and policy makers would also benefit from reading this book.
Q: How is your book helping?
A: The book provides tons of ideas to try out in school, and there is a Facebook page devoted to helping people meet up and find a book club to join. Also, one of the things I thought about a lot in writing the book was how this publication could support the continued work of the teachers and teacher-led networks that are profiled in it. So, I decided to create some “Transformative Teacher” swag — T-shirts, mugs, tote bags — to fundraise for the groups in the book, and 100% of the profits will go to the teacher networks profiled. It’s a nice way for readers to support the work. Plus, they promote a sense of pride in teaching — and I’m a big fan of that as well.
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