Another voice: Online communities help teachers help each other - The Buffalo News
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Another voice: Online communities help teachers help each other

By Richard C. Iannuzzi

The art of teaching has evolved over the years, while the pressures on teachers have only grown. New data from the American Federation of Teachers has found that two out of every three parents say public schools are more important than religious institutions, businesses and the military in how they cultivate a child’s skills and abilities.

Despite these popular attitudes, teachers are often found fighting for precious resources to do their jobs and the authority to master their craft and boost student success. It’s abundantly clear to me that teachers are feeling the strain. As president of the union representing nearly all of New York’s teachers, our members are constantly on the prowl for the right tools and resources needed to help their students succeed.

Share My Lesson – the nation’s largest and fastest-growing online community for teachers – is one such resource that is giving educators precious access to one of the best tools they’ll ever have: each other. New York’s educators are joining their colleagues nationwide in identifying critical needs and stepping up to fill the gaps and support each other, even where state and federal policy-makers have failed to do so.

For example, New York State United Teachers members Drew Beiter and Joe Karb from Buffalo worked hand-in-hand with the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights to develop the groundbreaking Speak Truth to Power curriculum, which helps connect an array of human rights and cultural issues to the classroom through individual histories and activities. The curriculum gained new legs when it was uploaded to Share My Lesson.

Another NYSUT member, Amy Bernstein, has worked for 25 years as a speech pathologist for New York schools and is often tasked with teaching a wide variety of subjects. Her work requires her to be flexible in her practice – tailoring her expertise, approach, lessons and curriculum in order to make sure her students are successful and that their individualized education program goals are met. In joining Share My Lesson, Amy no longer has to reach into her pocket to pay for lessons that may or may not work.

Thanks to the era of digital technology and social networking, teachers’ ability to share lessons, teaching tips and tried-and-true practices with one another is growing to help educators meet these new challenges. Tools like Share My Lesson make it easier for teachers to have a lasting impact by connecting the best of their life’s work to their peers across the country. And, just as importantly, it helps take the guesswork out of how to teach to new, higher standards while allowing teachers to dive back into the art of their craft and devote their time to helping all students learn to their full potential.

Richard C. Iannuzzi, a former elementary school teacher, is president of the 600,000-member New York State United Teachers.

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