As I listened to Greta Thunberg’s compelling and powerful call to world leaders at the United Nations climate summit this week, I felt a familiar mix of activation, fury, and embarrassment. I felt activated to fight for changes to human behavior that allow us to co-exist on planet earth sustainably. I felt furious that humans continue to choose and defend a catastrophic impact on all life on the planet. And I felt embarrassed that my generation – who could have already curbed climate change and altered the course of our planet’s history – have not, and are now increasingly the people in positions of power – the world leaders – to whom Greta’s generation must say “how dare you.”
How dare us.
Unfortunately, this story and these emotions feel devastatingly familiar to those of us working in public education. Despite having the resources, knowledge, and capacity to ensure every student in America has a public education that fully serves and honors them, we don’t. In California currently, we aren’t willing to fully support folks to choose and stay in the teaching profession, resulting in a teacher recruitment and retention crisis across the state. Simultaneously we are very willing to put unprepared, unsupported, and unrepresentative teachers in classrooms, and are doing so in record numbers, especially in those classrooms made up of our most vulnerable students.
How dare us.
Last week, half the Trellis leadership team headed to Los Angeles for the kick-off of the California Teacher Residency Lab, while the other half headed to New York City for the convening of 100kin10. The purpose, nature, and scale of these events were quite different, but the vision and philosophy were not: let’s ensure our teachers reflect and can fully serve our students. This alignment was no more evident than in how both events kicked off – with calls for the need to be ambitious and bold.
Of course, ambition and boldness are what Greta Thunberg demands of us for our climate. They are what Gregory Hampton and Emma González demand of us to end gun violence. They are what Mari Copeny and Peace Titilawo demand of us to ensure we have clean water and nutritious food. They are what we must demand of ourselves for every student in every classroom in our country. This will and must begin with our students of color, immigrant students, students living in poverty, and other students who we have been unwilling to see and serve.
When we started Trellis five years ago we asked, what would the model of teacher recruitment, preparation, development and support look like if we did the most honorable and powerful things we know to do for young people in our schools? This is the origin of the Trellis model, pulled together from the best research, the highest-status experts, and our collective experience. We put it down on paper and we sent it out to everyone we know. And as feedback and reactions came back from around the country we noticed two clear themes: (1) we had gotten the model right (enough) and (2) it was going to be really hard to pull off.
I have a personal memory of sitting in my kitchen reviewing the latest email reaction and thinking to myself, so are we not going to try to do this because it’s going to be hard? Our community today – 140+ strong, majority People of Color executive-board-to-beginning-teacher, boasting a 100% teaching retention rate and growth data that makes the districts we partner with swoon – is evidence that disrupting an oppressive, broken system is possible… and happening. It requires unprecedented ambition. It requires being bold.
And it’s only getting started.
To transforming teaching together,