The first section asked teachers about the baggage students bring to school.
The next portion was on technology use in the classroom. One teacher said he is not high tech, but still uses innovative teaching methods including role-playing and simulations. Another teacher used Skype to reach a girl who was in the hospital battling leukemia.
Melinda Gates was on talking about what makes a great teacher. She said multiple measures need to be used including value-added, observations, specific behaviors like helping students who do not understand a concept. She said we need to update the education system to the information age. She commented, as many have, that education is necessary, because it is the great equalizer.
75% of teachers surveyed believe that higher salaries would help retain great teachers. Others commented they would like more respect, support, or to not be the center of political reforms.
The next discussion was about professionalism, salaries, and evaluations. Comparing teachers to other professions would elevate the teaching profession as a whole. One teacher said we need to convince legislators we need higher salaries, because we do not work 9-5. Evaluations should include value-added data, peer-to-peer observations, administrative observations, teachers giving back to the school, what students and parents think of the teachers. "Just because we love our kids, doesn't mean we aren't professionals."
Tenure does not mean you have a job for life. Best person to evaluate is the person teaching across or down the hall. "We need to get serious about peer evaluation." Some concerned about this leading to a popularity contest.
Online educator talked about site-based management and not having to answer to a district office, though they do meet state standards. Online essay winner talked about Superman and Wonder Woman being the students that come to school with the baggage from home. "People in the classroom everyday know what students need." "It is a shame we have to rely on philanthropy to fund education in areas across country."
Common Core State Standards help the future of education look more optimistic. "Imperative that we are treated as professionals." One wants performance pay based on evaluations. Children within each classroom who differ, and we need digital tools to help with differentiation.
More funding for resources, collaboration, and excellent teachers make for a great school. School reform needs parent and community involvement. Senior teachers want to teach next to another great teacher.
Overall, the town hall was interesting. My editorial comment is that the host, Brian Williams, needed to stop trying to be funny during his interim comments. MSNBC will host additional programs throughout the week.