Inquiry to Action Groups (ItAGs) -- 2013

Teacher Action Group (TAG) is excited to bring ItAG's back to Philadelphia for 2013!

Inquiry to Action Groups (ItAGs) are an opportunity for teachers to build community by learning together, developing as activists, and linking social justice issues with classroom practice.

Small groups will meet weekly (for a total of six, two-hour sessions plus a kick-off event) between February and April to share experiences, respond to readings, exchange ideas and develop plans of action.

District educators are eligible to receive Act 48 Credits for participating.

Below find the description of this winter’s six ItAGs, followed by information about how to register.

    ItAG Descriptions

    Below, find the descriptions for the 6 ItAGs being offered this year. After reading the descriptions, you can check off the ItAGs you are interested in participating in. A facilitator will be in contact with you with more information in January!

    1. Democratic Teacher Evaluation

    Often, the movement to align teacher accountability with standardized testing incites resistance amongst teaching professionals, because it undermines both the idea of teachers as professionals and the democratic ideal of choice. How can policy be crafted to incorporate teacher voices in evaluation and accountability? How do we create the right mix of incentives and supports to help teachers grow and improve upon their practices in ways relevant to their unique environments? The Performance Assessment ItAG event invites education professionals to help us explore evaluation methods that empower and make sense to teachers. We plan on creating a dialogue with local educators to first understand their opinions and concerns with teacher evaluation, after which we will develop a project to help us address these issues, the shape of which we will determine together. Join us to have your voice heard and become a part of the incipient movement to democratize teacher evaluation. Facilitators: Juan Gabriel Sanchez has worked as a high school teacher at Science Leadership Academy for over three years. He teaches his students history, focusing on a student-centered, inquiry-based approach to learning. Franca Muller Paz is a high school Spanish teacher at Arise Academy Charter High School. She recently graduated from UPenn with a M.S.Ed. Dates and Location: To be determined with group.

    2. Linguistic Bias Against Students of Color

    A variety of dialects are naturally spoken in the U.S., yet schools tend to define success with respect to one English dialect. How do the communicative expectations of our schools differ from the experiences our students bring? We will read current research and share our experiences to investigate this discrepancy. Discussion topics will include: the privileges associated with Standard English, African American Vernacular English, code switching, and approaches to the education of linguistically diverse learners. Facilitators: Carolena Lescano is a bilingual 2nd grade teacher in North Philadelphia. Previously, she was an ESOL teacher for two years. She is also completing her master’s degree in the Science of Instruction, plus an ESL certificate, at Drexel University. Erica Darken is a native Philadelphian and bilingual 1st grade teacher in North Philadelphia. She has a master’s degree in Intercultural Communication from Penn, and is eager to co-facilitate her second ItAG. Location: International House, 37th and Chestnut Dates: Thursdays 6:00-7:30 pm, Kickoff Feb. 7th; Feb. 14, 21, 28, and March 7, 14, 21

    3. Online Activism for Education

    What online activism has there been for education? How would we go about making more? And what would teachers do with these tools? Join former teacher and online activist Jesse Bacon for an ItAG that covers the recent history and types of online activism, some easy tips and tools, and plenty of space to brainstorm and really undertake shared action. We will work together to develop a theory of change specific to education and figure out how we can use digital methods to back that theory up. No prior technology experience required, but please bring a laptop or smartphone if you have one. Facilitator: Jesse Bacon was a teacher in Chicago for three years, and is now the social media director at a teacher public policy org. He very much wants to make the world a better place for teachers, including his younger self. Location: To be determined Dates: Tuesdays, 6:00 -8 :00 pm, Kickoff Feb. 7th

    4. Project Based Learning

    Most schools today still rely on testing as their main form of assessment--but this method rarely engages students, or leaves them with any lasting understanding of what was tested. With Project based learning (PBL), students respond to authentic problems and prompts, building complete products instead of just answering questions. Good PBL is more than just a book report or poster -- it asks students to engage with content and skill acquisition through every step of their learning. This ItAG will explore the theories and structures behind successful PBL, and also act as a workshop for participants to create at least one project-based unit for their own classroom. Teachers of all subject areas and experience levels welcome! Facilitator: Larissa Pahomov teaches students English at Science Leadership Academy (SLA), an all-PBL school. SLA teachers from different subject areas will also guest facilitate sessions, depending on the interests of the participants. Location: Science Leadership Academy, 22nd and Arch Dates: Wednesdays, 5:30 – 7:00; Kickoff Feb. 7th

    5. Social Justice Math

    The Social Justice Math ItAG is a chance for math teachers to come together and discuss how we can use math to teach and learn about issues of social and economic justice and how we can learn math through studying social justice issues. As math teachers, we are all working on an incredibly important social justice issue: the development of mathematical literacy. As math teachers, how can we teach math in a pedagogically sound way that also works within a framework of social justice even as we also grapple with the reality of standardized tests, mandated curriculums, and our chronic lack of time as busy teachers? The goal behind this ItAG is to open up conversation about and reflect on the ways we teach and think about math and to create and share resources. Facilitator: Marina Isakowitz has been a high school math teacher in the Philadelphia School District for the past 4 years, and taught a wide variety of math classes at the high school level. Location: West Philadelphia, to be determined with group Dates: Tuesdays 6 – 7:30pm; Kickoff Feb. 7th

    6. Social Justice Unionism

    The Social Justice Unionism ItAG is an opportunity for teachers to develop a greater understanding of what this concept means and collectively figure out how it translates into our current reality, both as organized teachers in the PFT and largely unorganized charter school teachers. First we will look at the historical roots of progressive teacher unionism as well as contemporary expressions like the CORE/CTU experience in Chicago; the evolution and practice of the PFT, and the crisis of teacher unionism in the face of an aggressive offensive by corporate school reformers. The second half will grapple with the concrete task of building a transformative social justice movement within our union, looking at the strategic, tactical and programmatic questions and issues. We also will look at approaches to further union organization in the charter school sector in ways that further a social justice agenda. It is our aim that this work will help inform existing organizing and inspire new initiatives. Facilitators: Timothy M. Boyle teaches students science and mathematics at the Alternative Middle Years Northwest Middle School. He graduated from St. Joseph’s University and earned his M.E.d. at Cabrini College with a Principal Certification. Ron Whitehorne is a retired teacher and an activist with roots in both community and labor struggles as well as the anti-war and civil rights movements of the 1960s. He has written extensively about social justice unionism and co-chaired the PFT Community Outreach Committee in the 1990s. Dates and Location: To be decided with group

    7. Educators Outside the Classroom: Growing The Movement for Democratic Schools

    This ItAG has in mind (but is certainly not limited to) the educators working with youth outside of the classroom. If you are an educator in Philly that is not a teacher per se, but who is interested in learning more about the situation surrounding public schools---and how we can involve and engage the youth in all of it, then this ItAG is for you! We will think about what we can take from our own work to inform our analysis and participation in the movement for justice and democratic education. Throughout the course of this ItAG we will try to understand what has been happening to public schools in our country, and what there is to learn from the building closures, inequities, staff layoffs, and privatization going around the U.S. We will analyze the history and structures of schooling in this country and in Philadelphia. The goal is to learn together, and to build a project that will extend our understandings into participation in the larger movement. Facilitator: Roman grew up in Northeast Philly and has been involved with education and youth justice work for over seven years. He has been a leader and educator in multiple youth movements including Hashomer Hatzair and Fertile Grounds. In the past several years he has been working with kids in Philly as a tutor, mentor, and photography teacher. Roman is currently working at Overbrook and West Philadelphia High Schools as an English tutor and after-school photography teacher. Dates & Location: To Be Announced

    NEW! 8. Unpacking the Emotional Baggage of Being a Mental Health Counselor

    We all know that when our students arrive in our classrooms, they are not only bringing backpacks and schoolbooks, but feelings and thoughts that can impact their learning. With the number of mental health counselors and social workers decreasing in our schools, the need to provide proactive and collaborative systems of support is becoming increasingly crucial. Alongside the need to equip ourselves with the tools to support our students, we must think about our own emotional needs as clinicians, so we can feel ready and empowered to take on crisis, trauma, and counsel. Join a group of mental health clinicians who work within and outside of schools to provide a peer network of support, while thinking about ways to best provide equal and appropriate services to all of our students. Through open dialogue and discussion, the group’s goal will be to create a safe space for mental health counselors to support one another, to problem solve as professionals in sharing therapeutic techniques and strategies, and to think about sustainable initiatives to put in place within our schools. Facilitator: Melody Regino is currently the School Counselor at an independent school in Philadelphia. With her B.S. from Saint Joseph’s University in Elementary and Special Education and a master’s degree in School Counseling from Boston College, Melodyprovides students, parents, and teachers a framework of partnership and education to meet the needs of students’ social and emotional health. Dates and Location: To Be Announced
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    We are excited to build a community of progressive and reflective educators with you. A facilitator will be in touch with you in January to confirm your commitment and give you additional information.