By Tina Nolan, Ed.D.
Moderator, New Jersey VIVA Idea Exchange
Last fall, I had the pleasure of being the research partner for the first ever VIVA Idea Exchange in Chicago. I was privileged to witness more than 600 Chicago Public School (CPS) teachers share their thoughts on how to redesign the school day, week and year. Their ideas stemmed from their own practice in the classroom. Rooted in real schools, in real classrooms, with real students, these teachers were the experts about how best to use time for learning.
Arming the teachers with research summaries based on their ideas, I was proud to support teachers as they informed policy decisions coming from the CPS central office. Out of that work came a report called, “Time, Teachers, and Tomorrow’s Schools.” Many of the recommendations provided in their report were adopted by the CPS administration. And I believe that students will be the biggest beneficiaries of this work because this group of teachers stepped up to say what they believed.
But I witnessed something else, too. The Chicago VIVA project created a community of teaching professionals who are still connected even though their work on the VIVA project is complete. Some have left the district, and some have moved into different positions within the district, but the group is still connected and supporting one another in the complex art of teaching.
Giving Teachers a Powerful and Collective Voice
The VIVA project in Chicago gave teachers a powerful and collective voice. It provided them an opportunity to speak directly to the Mayor of Chicago, the CEO of CPS Schools, and the President of the Chicago Teachers Union. The VIVA project provided a space for teachers to shine as the experts and leaders that they are.
The New Jersey VIVA Teachers Project: Powerful Online Collaboration
Through the VIVA project I have witnessed the power of online collaboration around important issues, and I am excited about the work ahead with the New Jersey Charter School Association and its membership. As the moderator for this project, my aim is to connect you and your ideas together as you articulate what successful character education looks like in your settings. Defining success in your own terms, based on your classroom experience, and rooted in the latest research on the subject makes for powerful and impactful decision-making in schools.