Capturing the Spark: What Energizes Great Teachers & Schools
I'm spending the school year on the road, writing about what it takes to support great teaching and schools throughout California!
Think back to one of your favorite teachers. Recall the atmosphere at a wonderful school. With these images in mind, what do you imagine about the broader qualities of California public schools and their teachers?
With this Kickstarter project, I want to take you inside some great classrooms and schools throughout California. Maybe you've heard discouraging news, observed some acrimonious debates and political battles about education; it's easy to become frustrated and disengaged, to feel powerless. But in recent years, through contact with hundreds of teacher leaders all over California, I've emerged optimistic and energized.
I’ve met inspirational teachers up and down the state – dedicated and creative, insightful and curious, wise and open-minded, always focused on improving their ability to meet the needs of children. I want to bring their great work to the attention of a broad audience, and share ideas about how we can all make a difference in the quality of teaching and learning at some level.
Part of the process involves posing my own questions as well, questions that you might share: What makes great teaching possible? What are the obstacles to creativity, innovation, and excellence – and how do teachers and schools overcome the obstacles? What keeps them going? How many ways are there to be a "great teacher"? Do we all agree about what we want to see in excellent teaching and high-performing schools?
This year, I’m on a mission to travel around California, to find answers to those questions and more by seeing teachers and schools in action. I'll be writing as I go – a blog for EdWeek (the nation’s leading education news publication), and a blog of my own – sharing glimpses into all types of California public schools, in every region of the state. And at the end of the year, I’ll be writing and self-publishing a book about this educational journey, looking for lessons applicable to all of us who are dedicated to protecting and improving the quality public education.
By supporting my work in this project, you're helping change the narrative about public schools. Give yourself and other readers an insider view of teachers and schools that are improving children's lives, and building a better future throughout the Golden State. Then, let's consider what we can do to create and foster the right conditions for educational success.
As I launch this ambitious effort, I'm grateful for the support of these education leaders:
I'm also fortunate to have the support of so many educators who have already invited me to visit their classrooms and schools. Their trust gives me a level of access to California schools that neither journalists nor researchers generally enjoy.
Essentially, it's going to take a teacher to write this story. Here's a map of the places currently in my travel plans!
I hope you'll consider supporting my project at any level that works for you! I'm seeking funding to cover costs of travel and publication, and to defray other expenses over time. Here are some working estimates I've used for planning purposes:
- Day trips from home - expenses include gas, meals, and lots of bridge tolls in the Bay Area; estimating 30 visits @ $25 avg. = $750
- Extended trips - 700-800 mile road trips, or air travel plus car rental; lodging, meals; 7 weeks of travel @ $1400/wk = $9800
- Developmental editing: up to $2500
- Copy editing: up to $1500
- Graphic design, layout, digital conversions: up to $1500
- Promotion: $500
- ISBN numbers: $250
If you add up the numbers, you can see that the goal I set is higher than these itemized costs. However, there are also processing fees, taxes, and the expense of fulfilling Kickstarter rewards, which won't be known until I see how many people contribute at each level. I've set a goal that I think is at the right level to make this project viable; I'm asking for your help not just to reach this goal, but surpass it.
I hope you share my commitment to learning about and strengthening California's public schools. Without ignoring the challenges that are out there, I'm offering you a vivid glimpse into what's already working – in urban and rural schools, elementary and secondary.
The goal is not to spur imitations. Instead, I hope readers of all types – parents, teachers, and others involved in education – will see and appreciate the contextual characteristics that help teachers and schools to thrive. We don't need copycats. We need to ensure that every student, teacher, and school can work in conditions that inspire them to create their own success story.
Risks and challenges
The first and most obvious risk is that I simply wouldn't be able to complete the visits I have in mind as the core of the book. However, I've worked directly or indirectly with over 20 education groups and associations in recent years, and have already received initial invitations to at least 50 schools from Eureka to the Mexico border, from the Pacific Coast to the Eastern Sierras. A project like this is sure to evolve as it unfolds, but I have the time, transportation, and connections, so with the funding in place I expect to succeed.
The next question would be if I have the skill set to write and publish a book. From a writing standpoint, I have written nearly 250 blog posts in recent years, and can typically produce a decent 1000-1500 word post in a couple hours. A manuscript of 60,000 - 70,000 words seems entirely manageable since I'm out of the classroom this year. Editing and revising may be more of a challenge than the initial manuscript, and while I think I could do it on my own, I fully intend to use the services of an experienced developmental editor as well. Likewise, I won't be approaching publishing entirely on my own. I've already done research and consulted with successful independent authors and publishers to understand the challenges. With free support online and from friends, plus paid professional support, I expect to deliver a great final product on time.
All of the reward incentives are similarly well within my control, and I've done prior research about multiple options, processes, and costs associated with creating and delivering these rewards.
I'm eager to keep in touch with project backers by email and social media, and will gladly tell you more about anything you'd like to know regarding this work.
- (30 days)