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And the nominees are… Thoughts on Global Teacher Prize

By | english, English, Flip the System, Uncategorized | 3 Comments

The final 10 nominees are in and they’re a wonderful choice. Of course I would be deluding myself if I wasn’t hoping for a spot among the shortlist of 10 nominees. Yes, I was disapointed. The closer you get the more you think that maybe, just maybe, there might be a chance that….  But I’m very glad for the 10 nominees and I’m glad that there is a Global Teacher Prize and it was already a huge honour to be amongst the 50 nominees. It sheds a spotlight on the wonderful work teachers are doing and the wonderful job we have working with children. All of the 50 nominated teachers are a bigger advert than any government agency can come up with (In the Netherlands these campaigns are exceedingly dull and lame) Each and everyone of them is showing what teaching is about: inspiration, opportunities, creativity. Who wouldn’t want to work in an environment like that? On the other hand the teaching profession is undervalued and plagued by many and similar issues worldwide. Teachers are valued individually, but as a profession we’re not. That really needs to change and the Teacher Prize is one step in that direction.

On the other hand we shouldn’t just rely on others awarding us an honour. It would be an empty gesture in itself if we do not also proudly claim discretionary space for our own. We’re not the role models that students deserve if we do not act accordingly. These wonderful 49 nominees are already doing that. Tom Bennet who is a role model and inspiration of how teachers should relate to research in eduation and who steadily working on an international Researched network. Cesar Bona is a focal point for educational reform in Spain and an inspiration for teachers in Latin America. And if the educational system is not doing the children justice you start your own schools like Elisa Guerra Cruz in Mexico.  Everyone has so many innovative teaching practises to share, from Vese Vesela Bogdanovic and her literally magical teaching experiences to Cameron Patterson, whose history  teaching practices are giving me food for thought.

Personally I already knew some of the teachers in the top-50. Tom is contributing to our new book. I’ve met Noah Zeichner in Canada at a teacher leadership conference. I’ll meet Jeff Charboneau at the International Summit on the Teaching Profession where we’ll be both making the case for teacher leadership. And both Jeff, Noah, Nancy Barile and I are already part of the Centre for Teacher Quality. Hopefully I’ll meet Mark Reid when he comes over to visit his family in the Netherlands. And I’m sure I’ll meet Mareike Hachemer soon, since she lives just around the corner (relatively speaking). But distance shouldn’t be a problem any more since we are all connected on-line. New information technology is allowing us to level not only institutional, but also national boundaries.

Now we’re also part of the Varkey Teachers Ambassadors Programme. I’m proud to be part of a growing international teacher network which will shape the future of education. Through their work these 49 teachers are already making a case for teacher led educational reform. How can we not give more responsibility and recognition to teachers if this is just a small sampling of what’s going on worldwide?

I wish the 10 nominees all the best in the world and I’ll conclude with these wonderful words of Dutch secretary of Education Jet Bussemaker and State Secretary Sander Dekker. Educational reform should be a combined effort of all parties involved. No matter how difficult that is sometimes, I think that is what we’re doing in the Netherlands.

Dear Jelmer ,  

What a pity that you have not reached the top 10 of The Global Teacher Prize. We would have supported such an honor awarded to you wholeheartedly. As for us , you have already earned it! But you will undoubtedly get over the disappointment quickly, because you have every reason to be proud of yourself. After all, according to the jury you already belong to the fifty best teachers in the world, and there is no teacher in the Netherlands who can repeat that!  

Therefore continue in the way that characterizes you: as an inspiring and motivating teacher for your students and therefore a role model for your colleagues. That way you can ensure that our education gets even better.  And then many more Dutch teachers will enter the top 50 of The Global Teacher Prize !  

With regards,

Jet Bussemaker

Sander Dekker

Beste Jelmer,

Wat jammer dat je niet bent doorgedrongen tot de top 10 van The Global Teacher Prize. We hadden je zo’n ereplaats van harte gegund. Wat ons betreft heb je die ook verdiend! Maar je zult ongetwijfeld snel over de teleurstelling heen komen, want je hebt alle reden om trots op jezelf te zijn. Volgens de jury behoor je immers tot de vijftig beste leraren ter wereld, en er is geen docent in Nederland die je dat na kan zeggen!

Blijf daarom vooral doorgaan op de manier die we van je kennen: als inspirerende en motiverende docent voor je leerlingen en daarmee ook als rolmodel voor je collega’s. Op die manier kun jij ervoor zorgen dat ons  onderwijs nóg beter wordt. En dan komen er nog veel meer Nederlandse leraren in de top 50 van The Global Teacher Prize!

Met vriendelijke groet,

Jet Bussemaker

Sander Dekker

(Well since I’m now free to do so I can now endorse my favourite teachers: Phalla Neang and Azizullah Royesh will hopefully both win!  :) I’m in awe of their achievements)

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On the Global Teacher Prize: Doubt, trust and ambition

By | english, English, Uncategorized | One Comment

This is an accompyaning blogpost to a lecture I gave at De Balie on “My idea for education” Both the Dutch and the version were streamed and recorded. You can find both streams at De Balie site. Below is the English stream. At the bottom of the post is the Dutch Stream.

Jelmer Evers – Global Teacher Prize nominee – at De Balie [ENGLISH] from De Balie on Vimeo.

Doubt, trust and ambtion

My first five minutes as a teacher were horrible. One of those moments that can wake you up middle of the night in dread years later after the fact. I was doing a practice lesson to see if teaching would suit me. Het Utrechts Christelijk Gymnasium is a very nice grammar school in the old medieval city centre of Utrecht. History galore,  a small class and I was thoroughly prepared. All the right conditions for a nice history lesson. I’d meticulously planned a lesson on American presidents and the Vietnam war. We were going to study the decisions of consecutive presidents  through cartoons. But the second I started I blacked out. There I was in front of around 20 16-year olds who looked at me expectantly and I didn’t know what to say.

After stammering incoherently for a couple of minutes I decided to do the right thing and restart the lesson. A liberating decision. The lesson went fine afterwards. The students were more than willing to let me finish the lesson, they showed empathy and were eager to learn. A lesson I’ve took to heart since which formed the basis of my teaching

Twelve years on and I’m nominated for the Global Teacher Prize. Apparently I’ve come a long way. But it was a long and winding road with many ups and downs. I’ve laughed, talked for hours, learned from and even shed tears with some of my students. Students never seize to amaze me with their creativity and sense of wonderment. It’s that personal connection that matters most.

The 10.000 hour rule? That applies to me. Practice makes you a better practitioner. And teaching is about practice. Practice as in perform repeatedly, but also practice as in my profession.

Throughout those years I have become less certain of the right approach to education. My reality is one of doubt. Not uncertainty, but doubt. A continuing search for what is the right thing to do. Doubt has lead me to question my practice continuously and to search for the “why” behind what I’m doing.

In the meanwhile a whole chorus worldwide have chimed in on the need for educational reform. Not hindered by any doubt, everyone has THE next best idea for education. The list is seemingly endless and quite bewildering: we need to have lessons in mindfulness, focus on the basics: language and calculus, citizenship,  global citizenship! autonomy, flipping the classroom, classroom management, cross-curricular Project Based Education (PBL), 21st Century Skills, 19th Century Skills, makereducation, personalisation, differentiation, more structure, direct instruction, game based learning, gamification. And everything is evidence based. Have you read Hattie by the way?

Still there? That’s how it feels to work in education. And then you still have to teach all those lessons, mark, do extra-curricular work, spend time that student that really needs your attention. That reality feels very different from all those certainties espoused by various talking heads. Schools kill creativity? Sometimes they do and sometimes they don’t.

Research informs my practice, but doesn’t drive it. What most politicians and administrators don’t understand is that practice equals research in good teaching. With experience comes intuition for what is right at that exact moment for that particular child. That moment is unique and can’t be caught in big data and averages. But to understand what you’re doing you need to delve into the research.

Sadly under the banner of evidence based education politicians worldwide stampede after one educational fad after another. In the Netherlands “excellence” has been the buzz-word of the last couple of years.

And that stampede has increased with the first publication of the PISA reports in 2000. International rankings have lead to a convergence of educational policies of which several  nefarious components  stand out: standardized testing, competition, data driven and deprofessionalization of teachers.

Teaching at UniC, a progressive and experimental school, made crystal clear what kind of effect standardized testing can have. Working at the edge of the system you suddenly get a beter sense of how those boundaries are influencing your work.

After five years I wanted to have more room to breathe, to work with students on  a one-on-one basis, allow for more creativity, use more technology, allow students the space and time to explore . Don’t get me wrong, traditional forms of education worked and work well for a lot of students and teachers. The “lecture is dead” narrative has never appealed to me. But for me the 50-minute lesson system wasn’t working anymore.

Working at UniC felt like breathing again. I was amazed by the self-reflection, creativity and maturity of the students. I was amazed at how much I didn’t know and how much I had to learn about pedagogy and working with children. Some of my colleagues are so good, I’ll never reach that level. And I was amazed by how important it was to design, teach and learn together. Teaching is a profoundly cooperative and creative profession, yet a lot teachers work in isolation with the doors closed and  follow a script written by someone else. But time and time again, rigid rules enforced by a top-down inspectorate steer you towards teaching to the test.

One of my goals is to give students the tools to shape their own lives, take matters into their own hands. But how can we teach that to students if we are seen as cogs in the machine, and sadly act like it too. If something is going wrong you have a choice. Go along or change how the system works. Working at UniC gave me the mindset, will and skills to act.

Blogging, writing, social media, researching transformed me into a different teacher. Connecting to other teachers, researchers and politicians has opened up a completely new world. The more I learned about how our educational system worked the more one question kept popping up: where are the teachers? In places where policy is decided teachers are absent. Teachers are distrusted to do the right thing. I don’t accept other people telling me what to do anymore while they clearly have no idea what they’re talking about. Teachers should take responsibility to do what’s right for their students and not outsource that responsibility to a test. The key to good education lies with teachers. And that is slowly but steadily happening in the Netherlands. Teachers taking the lead in educational change. We need to “Flip the System

That is why I think the Teacher Prize is so important. As long as people say “those who can do, those who can’t teach” we have a lot of work to do. Highlighting and honouring the wonderful, but also difficult work of teachers is a noble endeavour. Thousands of teachers have applied. And most of them probably would have deserved the nomination. There is a certain randomness to these kinds of awards, but that goes for the Nobel Prize as well. Look at the wonderful 49 teachers from all over the world and the amazing things they have achieved. Teachers make the difference and to achieve change we need to enhance the image of teaching. And we do need change. Millions of children in poorer countries are without a proper education at all and millions more endure a rigid, standardized education. Good education for all  should be our ambition

We need to acknowledge that there is no one-size fit all solution to education. Teachers need to let go of certainties and question their own practice: doubt. We need to have the ambition to achieve the best education for every child. And society needs to trust teachers to make it happen.

Jelmer Evers – Global Teacher Prize nominee – at De Balie [ENGLISH] from De Balie on Vimeo.

CERI meeting

The view that teachers are change-aversive is wrong

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Teachers don’t like change! They’re fossils who just don’t want to see and do what’s right. The OECD’s CERI unit recently published a report that disproves this frame. Dirk van Damme has a well written introduction to the research: how can education systems embrace innovation. To anyone who has been following education policy (globally) this is of course completely stating the obvious. Having been on the receiving end for 12 years it has been one of the reason to get involved in innovation and educational policy on a wider scale.

Teacher leadership is one of the keys to educational reform. This research is one step in a growing body of evidence on how to implement change. Most notable The Global Fourth Way, Professional Capital and Finish Lessons have build upon lessons learned from countries and regions which have gotten educational reform right. It is the basis for our book  “” (The Alternative) and our policy initiative  (Learning Together) In we will explore this issue further together with teachers and researchers around the world.

“The core of the dispute is not so much about the actual amount of change and innovation in education, but about the process – how change and innovation happen. A lot of well-intentioned innovations fail not because of a lack of quality or because their intended direction of change is wrong, but because of how they have been implemented. Teachers will be able to give you rich accounts of top-down innovations, implemented without much consultation, without taking into account the experiences and knowledge base at the point of delivery of education. Lack of trust, lack of ownership, a poor evidence base, and lack of empowerment of the key actors – these seem to be the main ingredients of the recipe for failure in changing education.”

“Too often education ministers and policy makers react by tightening the screws, i.e. by reinforcing accountability, supervision and bureaucratic control systems. This may lead to short-term behavioural adjustments of the actors in the system, but very rarely to sustainable change.”

“What makes for effective, sustainable innovation and reform: the professionalism of teachers and school leaders, strong knowledge-management frameworks and trust among all stakeholders and actors in the system. Professionals bring about innovation when they have a stake in it, when they see the evidence and the supporting knowledge base as credible, and when they trust their colleagues. In the same vein, parents will commit to innovative change when they feel involved and listened to, and when they understand the rationales and underlying evidence for change.”

In Flip the System we will explore this issue further together with teachers and researchers around the world.

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Teacher Led Schools and Teacher Leadership on Newshour

By | english, English, Flip the System, Het Alternatief | No Comments

Slowly, but steadily agency, or is getting more attention in the mainstream media.  PBS Newshour had an item on one of the most prolific examples of this trend: .

Lots of educational systems around the world are plagued by high turnover rates and job-dissatisfaction. As one of the teachers in the report says she lost inspiration and wasn’t able to teach as she deemed fit anymore, her child-centered approach fell out of favor as testing and accountability became the new buzzwords. “A tsunami of data-collection frenzy”. Instead of good education we got flawed data.

In an environment like this it is extremely hard to uphold your integrity as a teacher. Her professional ethos got the upper hand and she decided to quit. This hostile top-down climate has made teachers jobs a lot harder. Thus the higher dissatisfaction, higher turnover rates of teachers and a continuing weakening of the profession. Something you see in a lot of developed countries, including the Netherlands.

But instead of leaving, teachers are also taking matters into their own hands. One of the most promising examples of this are the teacher led schools. The report features Mission Hill in Boston, with the inspiring motto: “The freedom to teach and the freedom to learn.” As one of the teachers at Mission Hill is saying “We’re not just democratic in theory, but in practice” Professionalism isn’t something that can be done to you, it is something you do. Good education isn’t some prescribed set of rules, it is something you achieve through an ongoing discourse within the school community, including students and parents. A Mission Hill teacher: “Anything that comes down the pike is a conversation.”

Following this logic, no teacher led school will look the same. At Mission Hill they do have a principal, but she calls herself lead-teacher.

In Trusting Teachers with School succes, Kim Farris Berg and Dirkswager identified nine areas in which teachers may have autonomy, but rarely have it. (Dirkswager & Farris-Berg, 2012) At Mission Hill “all decisions, curriculum, budget, hiring, are voted on by the entire staff.”

“Nothing goes forward until everyone agrees. When we make decisions, we have a raise of hands. So, five, you strongly agree, four, you agree, you have some reservations, but you can live with it. But if you put a one, you disagree and we stop. We don’t go on until everyone can say they have a five or a four. With this authority, teachers decide the look and feel of their classrooms. There’s lots of low lighting and soothing music. Arts and crafts are everywhere, all part of Mission Hill’s personality.”

 “We’re not going to use a packaged curriculum. We’re going to use students’ voices to shape our curriculum, that we’re going to shape our curriculum around their interests. I think, at most other schools, it’s a lot of, you will follow this. You must follow this, and there’s never any room to breathe.”

There are lots of different models and Mission Hill has real autonomy. But what Teacher led schools do have in common is a focus on students instead of grades. Moreover they have a low turnover rate and job satisfaction is high. To me agency is key here, for both teachers and students.

But that agency shouldn’t end at the school building. As Tony Wagner rightly says in the report we should look further, at the entire educational system. Rene Kneyber and I have argued in Het Alternatief (Dutch, in English The Alternative) that teacher agency is something that has to be embedded on every level of an educational system to achieve real and meaningful change. We call this . (Evers & Kneyber, 2013) We have to look for inspirational examples like Mission Hill to show us how to get there.

For more resources on teacher leadership see:

Bibliography

Dirkswager, E., & Farris-Berg, K. (2012). Trusting teachers with school success : what happens when teachers call the shots. Lanham Md: R & L Education.

Evers, J., & Kneyber, R. (2013). Het alternatief : weg met de afrekencultuur in het onderwijs! Amsterdam: Boom.

 

A virtual analysis, blended learning put to the test

By | blended learning, english, Flipping the Classroom | One Comment

The Bok Center for teaching and Learning has analysed for HarvardX blended courses. And not surprisingly it is all about pedagogy.

“While the variability among the four College courses made general interpretations a challenge, the student assessments did reveal some commonalities that were not necessarily course- or instructor-specific. Among the key findings:

  • Students tended to conflate the teaching approach with the blended format, responding more to the teaching itself than to how specific online or blended elements worked.
  • Students appreciated the quality of the HarvardX materials, and most found them interesting and engaging.
  • For the most part, students spent roughly the same amount of time on homework and preparation for the blended class as they did for a traditional Harvard course.
  • Students valued the increased flexibility and ability to learn at their own pace, but still wanted in-person interactions with faculty and among themselves. They said that sections — small-group discussions outside the class ― were especially vital, enabling feedback, time for Q&A, meaningful collaborations, and a deeper sense of intellectual community.
  • The most common student complaint was that online learning opportunities were often redundant with in-class components, as faculty experimented with how to best use class time and encourage participation. In-class activities worked best when they were well-structured, such as when students were given discussion questions, problem sets, or worksheets in advance.
  • In any setting, students cut corners to save time, earn participation points, or get through required assignments or assessments. Many adopted efficiency strategies while watching the online lessons, causing some to integrate the materials in less-than-meaningful ways.”
The key takeaway is of course that for a good blended course you need sound pedagogy. Which for anyone involved in teaching is an open door of course. Just adding technology, video and putting course materials online doesn’t make for good education. But maybe that is because in secondary education pedagogy is central to good education. In higher education this doesn’t seem to be the case as much.

My main conclusion of blended teaching is that it enables differentiation. A student doesn’t need to be in the classroom all the time if that doesn’t fit the learning goals of that student. Or maybe a lot of remediation is needed. Plan time for individual coaching and in the classroom design challenging activities to engage the group as a whole.

In the end I, and any good teacher will always try to make sure that in-classroom activities are worthwhile and stimulate deep learning, that way students will come. Even if they’re allowed not to.

Research summary here

Flip the Classroom or Flip the System?

By | english, English, Flip the System | 3 Comments

I’m a big proponent of using new technologies in education. I’ve used new pedagogies like Flipping the Classroom to achieve more differentiation. Use social media for anytime/anyplace learning. Videogames and web 2.0 tools broaden the pedagogical palette tremendously. And social media has allowed me to reach out to other teachers, researchers, school leaders, policy makers and politicians to gain new insights and influence education on a national level. Without social media I wouldn’t have been able to publish a book (with Rene Kneyber), Het Alternatief,  which tries to offer a new way of changing education. Both for students and teachers new technologies offer tremendous opportunities.

Education worldwide is at a crossroads. One the one hand there is the tendency for more standardization, privatization, deprofessionalization. All summed up in what Pasi Sahlberg has called the Global Education Reform Movement (GERM). On the other hand we see a renewed focus on equity for all children, a broader holistic view of education and teacher voice as an alternative to out of control accountability. New technologies play a pivotal role in this. Not just because of their disruptive nature perse, but also because of their empowering nature.

But a focus on technology itself is not enough. We can only have real meaningful transformation if we focus on the needs on the relation between teachers and their students. Empower teachers, parents and students to make meaningful change and technology will automatically come up in the context of local needs. That is why we need to Flip the System. What happens in the classroom between students and teachers should be supported by the system, instead of teachers supporting the system.

We need to know why we use technology and we need to know why we do what we do in general. What is education for? That seems like an obvious question, but it is rarely asked and leads to superficial policies which are out of sync with classroom needs of teachers and students.  Thousands of iPads being pushed into classrooms in Los Angeles is very telling example. Individual schools operate in different contexts and might have completely different pedagogical outlooks. Why then choose for a whole district to have iPads? Usually because of managerial focus: teaching will be more efficient, cheaper and the educational process easier to manage, which in most cases turns out to be a mirage. Or the decision is based on good salesmanship on the part of the tech company. Or because iPads are being equated with innovation and pedagogy. Which of course it is not, I love my iPad, but it is nothing more than a tool.

It’s a brave new world out there. A sentence which holds both promise and threat. Take learning analytics for example. By digitizing and moving educational activities online we now have the power to gather huge amounts of data on our students. But if you read white papers of the tech industry this data equates learning and can even replace schools. Data is never the real world, the capabilities of adaptive learning are highly overrated and don’t take into account the importance of serendipity in education. Learning Analytics has the possibility to turn education in a standardized nightmare. On the other hand in the hand of a well trained professional this data is a powerful tool and huge opportunity for strong feedback on the learning process.

Source: Learning with E’s

The key lies therefore with the teacher, or better yet, teams of teachers deciding on how to shape education from a shared pedagogical vision. That means teachers also need to have a new set of skills. Teachers need to be designers. Balancing content (learning goals, cross-curricular, connected) pedagogy (direct instruction, project based learning) and technology (Web 2.0 tools, Maker tools, social media) into meaningful learning. Teachers need to be curators, picking up on new trends, research, pedagogies, technology, content and seeing how they can be put to use in a new context. Central to this is harnessing your own Personal Learning Environment and Network. A web of (digital) tools, on- and offline networks and people. That’s how we design and learn at my own school, UniC. It empowers both students and teachers.

source: Learning with E’s

Clearly schools, or teams of teachers, have to decide locally if, why and how to implement new technology. Only then can it be in sync with the needs of the school.  But also schools need to operate in a context. Designing means iteration and building on lessons learned. That can only be done in a meaningful way if the design is in the hands of teachers.  And by designing and researching themselves teachers acquire the skills necessary to implement new forms of education. Design, professional development and research form a coherent whole in design communities.  Instead of going around it in a top-down and compartmentalized way, without a buy in of the educational community

The question is, are our educational systems ready for this? Most aren’t. The necessary conditions are usually absent: real ownership, the power to set team and individual goals, being in charge of your own professional development, time, over the top accountability, to name a few, all stand in the way. So we can discuss implementing new technologies and pour huge amounts of resources into getting iPads into classrooms, or we can change the way we work and really achieve a transformation. To flip the classroom we need to flip the system.

Flipping the system is a necessary precondition and I hope you will join us finding an answer on how to achieve this. We are in the process of editing a new international book and help build and international teacher leader network. If you want to share your story, contribute, or like to know more please go to: www.flip-the-system.org and http://www.unite4education.org/ and follow #flipthesystem on social media

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Resources

So where to start? On new technologies and pedagogies and educational policy read the following blogs:

www.hackeducation.com by Audrey Watters

Ol Daily by Stephen Downes

Learning with E’s by Steve Wheeler

Plan B by Donald Clark

 

And the following books have really helped me as a teacher to sharpen my vision and in my eyes are a must-read

Biesta, G. (2014). The Beautiful Risk of Education (p. 178). Paradigm.

Biesta, G. J. J. (2010). Good Education in an Age of Measurement: Ethics, Politics, Democracy (Interventions: Education, Philosophy, and Culture) (p. 160). Paradigm.

Fullan, M. (2012). Stratosphere: Integrating Technology, Pedagogy, and Change Knowledge [Paperback] (p. 100). Pearson; 1 edition.

Hargreaves, A., & Fullan, M. (2012). Professional Capital: Transforming Teaching in Every School [Paperback] (p. 240). Teachers College Press; 1 edition.

Hargreaves, A., & Shirley, D. (2012). THE GLOBAL FOURTH WAY : THE QUEST FOR EDUCATIONAL EXCELLENCE (p. 215). Boston: Corwin Press.

Hattie, J. (2013). Visible Learning and the Science of How We Learn (p. 368). Routledge.

Laurillard, D. (2012). Teaching as a Design Science: Building Pedagogical Patterns for Learning and Technology [Paperback] (p. 272). Routledge.

Willingham, D. T. (2012). When Can You Trust the Experts?: How to Tell Good Science from Bad in Education (p. 272). Jossey Bass.

Flip the System

By | english, English, Flip the System, Het Alternatief | 2 Comments

Flip the System is a forthcoming book and an international teacher-led alternative to test based accountability and privatization. We propose a powerful alternative to these issues by strengthening the professional position of teachers by means of a (new) educational vocabulary, global consciousness of teachers and through strengthening professional collective autonomy.

In October 2013 Rene Kneyber and I met online. We knew each other by reputation and followed one another on Twitter. Rene is a math teacher, authority on classroom management, author, columnist and blogger. I’m a history teacher, blogger and an expert on blended learning. Both of us are prolific Twitter users and teacher activists. But this was the first real interaction we had. The reason for our exchange was the latest in a long series of misguided government policy initiatives and statements. We took exception to the way education was used and portrayed and decided to write an opinion piece for a national newspaper. We’re at the opposite of the educational spectrum. Rene is more of a traditionalist and I work at a very progressive school. But we both recognized each other as professional educators.

We’ve been teaching for around 12 years and slowly became more aware of how ridiculously our educational system was organized: rigid, top-down, standardized, with more and more testing and getting worse. Most notable, at least to us, was the complete absence of teachers in the discourse and the decision-making process on a meta-, but sadly often also on a school-level. As a profession we found ourself reduced to implementing other peoples ideas and our classroom expertise was not being recognized for what it’s worth.

Rene and I were already both involved in several initiatives regarding professional autonomy. Not just complaining, but also offering alternatives to the way Dutch policy was made and implemented. Amongst others there was the Professional Pride (Beroepseer) foundation. Rene had already helped publish a book in a series they published. And since there were already a book on police professionals, we thought it was time to publish one on teachers and education: Het Alternatief (The Alternative)

There isn’t a lack of educational books in the Netherlands, but there is a lack of teacher involvement in writing those books. If they do involve teachers, they’re usually about classroom practices. Practical stuff. And for the rest most (well meaning) people didn’t find it necessary to ask active classroom teachers to contribute to policy and philosophical books.

Teachers, together with renowned researchers, wrote a large part of Het Alternatief. The book itself symbolizes the way forward. It wasn’t hard to find good teachers who were willing to write on a diverse set of subjects. Luckily it wasn’t hard to find well known researchers who were willing to contribute as well. When asked Andy Hargreaves, Dennis Shirley, Michael Fullan, Howard Gardner, Paul Kirschner and Gert Biesta amongst others graciously agreed.

The book was published on October 4th and the secretary of education received the first copy out of our hands. Het Alternatief turned out to be more successful than we could have ever imagined. It struck a nerve, especially amongst teachers. A few weeks later it was already discussed in parliament, national newspapers and it is part of the discussion shaping policy on a national level, but just as important, in schools as well. There are many similar initiatives and organizations. In that respect the book is part of the zeitgeist. Maybe not just in the Netherlands, but internationally as wel.

Call to action

That is why we’ve decided to write an international version of “Het Alternatief” as a follow-up, in English: The Alternative or Flip the System. One of the things that inspired (and worried) us are the educational struggles going on in the United States. But not just in the US. A move towards standardized testing, privatization, neo-liberal policies, corporatization, top-down accountability, value added assessment are to be found all over the world. Pasi Sahlberg rightly calls it the Global Education Reform Movement (GERM)

As the world is getting more globalized, so is educational policy. Neo-liberal economic policy has profoundly changed the public sector all over the world in the last twenty years, including education. International benchmarking by the OECD (the PISA reports) has further crystalized this trend. Politicians, policy makers, researchers all meet one another on a global stage.

At the same time, by means of that same globalization and through social media, alternative ways of organizing education have also gotten more attention, Finland being the most notable example. Researchers like Diane Ravitch, Andy Hargreaves and Pasi Sahlberg are global thought leaders in this debate. We think it is time that global teacher-leaders add their voice to this chorus as well. We need to have a voice on the global stage, that is where national policy is also being shaped and that directly influences our work with children in the classroom.

The aim of the book is to help shape that movement. With the help of Education International (eiei.org) and their Unite4Education initiative we’ve begun work on an international edition. A few well known contributors have already agreed to write articles or do interviews. At the same time there are already a lot of local initiatives and organizations putting alternatives into practice. National organizations like the Centre for Teacher Quality, NBPTS and the Dutch Onderwijscooperatie have already identified national teacher-leaders.

We want teacher-leaders worldwide to contribute and start a global dialogue. Use social media to extend our Personal Learning Networks globally. We want to explore inspiring case studies from all different continents. Just like the Dutch version it will be a quest to which we don’t have an outcome yet. Although there are big cultural, political and economical differences we firmly believe that learning and teaching have a universal quality. We hope you will help us get a little closer to a global teacher community by adding your voice to this global dialogue and maybe the book.

At the Teaching and Learning 2014 Conference there will be a panel discussion with Linda Darling-Hammond, Susan Hopgood (EI), Dennis van Roekel (NEA) Daniel J, Montgommery (AFT) and myself on “Leading the (Global) Profession of Teaching.” from 11.30-12.30 Room 207

For more information see www.flip-the-system.org and www.unite4education.org and follow @jelmerevers and @rkneyber