Steven Zemelman's Learning Story


For the past year and a half, I’ve been working with a small group of schools in Chicago that are improving kids’ learning through instructional leadership teams. These are teams of teachers in schools that work democratically and systematically to help teachers throughout the school adopt a powerful practice, such as classroom writers workshop. What I love about this is that it is not only improving classrooms, but also developing teachers’ leadership capacity so they can continue making improvements whether consultants or grant funds or other outside resources are available or not. And when teachers learn how to work more democratically, they come to view kids this way as well. This is a kind of sustainable improvement in education that we have lacked across the country. Too often schools depend on outside experts (like me) to promote change, and then we wonder why it doesn’t last.
What’s also exciting is that the well-structured development process the teams are using helps insure that the effort really gets carried out and deepened as it goes along — which too often hasn’t happened in schools. I’ve helped coach the teams — but it’s really the teachers and the kids who do the work. We’re now seeing it really take hold in the classrooms in our network of schools, and we expect it will show up in real learning as well as in the standardized tests that we don’t put much faith in, but that we know the press and politicians look at. This is the sort of strategy that progressive school reformers need to adopt so that the other great efforts described on this webpage will really have a long-term and widespread impact.