Academy should teach collaboration skills

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By announcing his plans for a National Teaching Academy here in Chicago, Mayor Daley has opened discussion on a question that will shape our city in the new millennium: What and how do we want to teach the teachers who will teach our children?

We encourage everyone involved in its development to consider first whether they view their formal education as a good experience. Rich or poor, how good you feel about the quality, relevance and rewards of your schooling may be the best predictor of whether you choose to continue your education.

In Chicago, we have always concentrated on reading, writing and arithmetic. Indeed, these may be the primary outcomes for students who choose to stop their education at or before high school graduation. For everyone else, they are simply tools—the first things, not the last, we set out to learn.

The purpose of good education is not just to teach us the basics, but to teach us how to learn them and to want to learn more. When education succeeds in this way, it’s almost always due in large part to a teacher who made the connection work.

There can be no more important educational or economic priority for our city than to keep children going to school as long as it takes for them to acquire the credentials they will need to have a realistic shot at their professional goals. Short of chaining children to their desks, the only way we will make this happen is by increasing their desire to complete secondary schooling and pursue post-secondary education.

By preparing educators to collaborate with families, the National Teaching Academy can help educators instill in their students a desire for education and a commitment to pursue more of it, no matter how hard the schoolwork.

There is another important reason for preparing teachers as collaborative leaders: in the 21st century, teachers will be village builders. Through conventional and computer-assisted means, they will connect with a universe of people and resources. They will convene social service providers who will help ensure that students can learn and that their families can promote children’s learning. They will build relationships with corporations, philanthropists and government agencies to augment scarce resources. They will develop partnerships with other institutions, such as libraries, parks, police districts, chambers of commerce and local banks.

If the National Teaching Academy rises to the challenge of training teachers in these skills, then it will indeed be a national leader.