Helping Teachers Help Students

Helping Teachers Help Students

Lorretta Johnson
Lorretta Johnson

By Lorretta Johnson
Secretary-Treasurer, American Federation of Teachers

To those who think that teaching is an 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. job with summers off, try walking in the shoes of teachers. Unless you spend time with a teacher, you will never get a sense of the amount of time and effort and passion they put into helping children thrive.

With all the pressures and even hits that teachers take, there are hundreds of thousands of who go the extra mile for their kids. Without making a show of it, a Waco, Texas, elementary special education teacher discretely connects parents with non-profit agencies that can provide their children with much-needed shirts, jackets and other clothing items. A school safety worker in Dallas goes above and beyond by teaching his disadvantaged students how to fish and garden, and he has even taken in about 40 homeless children over the past 15 years so they have a safe and secure place to live. A St. Paul, Minn., science teacher and coach felt it was important to connect with students and their families on their turf, so he developed a program in which every teacher in his school makes at least two home visits each year. And a Head Start educator in Charleston, W.Va., delivered lunches to the homes of kids who missed their free lunch when schools closed because of a recent chemical spill. Most educators will jump through hoops to make sure their students are well prepared for their next grade, college, career and life.

So much is expected of teachers today, but too little is offered in the way of resources, support and professional development. Take lesson planning. Teachers are pretty much on their own—an even more difficult task now that teachers in 45 states and the District of Columbia must align their instruction with the new Common Core State Standards for mathematics and English language arts.

One of the resources that educators nationwide have come to depend on is the American Federation of Teacher’s Share My Lesson—the largest collection of lesson plans, videos, ideas on instruction and other teaching resources, including more than 30,000 lesson plans that are based on the Common Core standards. Any educator can register free of charge, download anything on the site, and post favorite lesson plans or other materials to share with other teachers. There’s also a section for educators to ask peers for guidance on, say, a classroom management issue or a subject they’re teaching. Stephanie usually uses Share My Lesson to find lessons that have been modified for her special education students.

Since February is Black History Month, the site features a large collection of relevant Black History Month lessons. And science and social studies teachers will love the special collection of lessons and videos on the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, many of which were prepared by Share My Lesson partners NBC Learn and the National Science Foundation.

Another resource that tens of thousands of teachers have used is First Book, which provides free books for children in need. AFT members have distributed more than 1 million books in just two years.

Incredible hard work by public school educators, along with help from Share My Lesson and other resources, keep kids motivated to do well. We are working to reclaim the promise of public education so that every student can not only dream their dreams, but achieve them.