April 19 — 4:44 pm, 2010

A teacher network rooted in service learning

Today we have a guest blog from Kimberly Kirn at Need in Deed (NID). She has information about their Teacher Network program.


Each year Need in Deed accepts 30 Philadelphia public school teachers in grades 3-8 into our Teacher Network. We’re accepting applications for next year’s cohort now. Applications are due this Friday, April 23.

UPDATE: The deadline has been extended to Friday, May 7. Also, there will be another information session Wednesday, May 5 from 4:30-5:30 p.m. at Bache-Martin School (2201 Brown Street).

The Teacher Network gives teachers the skills, resources, and support to make service-learning part of their pedagogical toolkit. It provides a setting in which teachers can study effective practices, share resources, lend support to peers, receive recognition, and take advantage of leadership opportunities.

We train the teachers in our Network to use our framework to complete a yearlong service-learning project with their students. Teachers meet for a two-day summer retreat and for monthly workshops and peer sharing sessions throughout the year. Each teacher also works with a NID program staff member to adapt the framework to the specific needs of his/her class. NID staff acts as both coach and concierge, helping the teacher build student buy-in, make curriculum connections, and identify relevant community resources.

Thursday, April 22 from 4:30-5:30 p.m. at Grover Washington Jr. Middle School we are holding an information session for any 3-8th grade Philadelphia Public School teachers.

Teachers have told us the Network has allowed them to connect with a community of like-minded educators and with their students in ways they thought no longer possible in this age of high-stakes testing.

By participating in our program elementary school students develop critical thinking skills. Middle school students – a group noted for behavior problems and alienation – have shown more concern for others and for what’s happening in their community. Student-teacher relationships improve. And yes, we’ve seen PSSA scores improve for all grades.

We’ve seen teachers and students reengage with school. Teachers rediscover why they entered this profession, and students see their classroom as a trusted community to which they want to belong. Perhaps these are the most important outcomes of all. After all, how can public schools possibly fulfill their mission if no one – not the teachers, not the students – wants to be there?

"In my 17 years of teaching, NID is the only organization I’ve worked with that gives teachers the tools as well as the focus to help students find their voices through meaningful exploration and inspiring service. Students, who many feel should be the recipients of charity, find ways to give and feel valuable, all the while learning. In my classroom I have seen test scores rise and self-esteem flourish. I love working with my students each year as they select a community issue and work together to learn and ultimately create change."  

For 23 years, Need in Deed’s mission has been to prepare young people for civic responsibility and service to others. The way we do this has evolved over time, but the idea of student voice has remained central to the service-learning process we use. Through this process, young people make positive contributions towards addressing significant needs and concerns in their schools and communities.

the notebook

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