InProgress: CREATE Teacher Residency

The current cohort of CREATE residents.

The i3/EIR grant program funds hundreds of organizations throughout the country, all of whom are engaged in forward-thinking, even boundary-pushing work. The InProgress interview series conveys the breadth and excitement of our diverse grantees by letting them explain their work in their own words. These aren’t success stories, exactly, but portraits of ongoing work, with all the inspiration and obstacles that implies.

For this installment we hear from Elizabeth Hearn, Director of the CREATE Teacher Residency in Atlanta, a partnership between Georgia State University's College of Education and Human Development and the Atlanta Neighborhood Charter School. CREATE holds an i3 grant.  

i3/EIR: What kind of work is CREATE doing with its EIR grant?

ELIZABETH HEARN: With help from the EIR program, CREATE (Collaboration and Reflection to Enhance Atlanta Teacher Effectiveness) offers an innovative 3-year residency for new teachers along with extensive opportunities for teacher and administrator collaboration, reflection, and professional learning within individual schools and between neighboring schools. This merger of programming—supporting both new and experienced educators in both public charter and traditional district schools—makes CREATE an effective partner in the effort to train teachers for work in several Atlanta Public Schools in historically-underserved communities.

We drive this work through three types of programming: a 3-year Teacher Residency program; Professional Learning for experienced educators in the schools where the residents are placed; and the Induction Organizations Collaborative (IOC), a “third space” that brings university faculty, school district administrators, and school leaders together to re-imagine and reform teacher education.

We are racially/socially diverse. The teacher workforce in the US is about 80 percent white; CREATE’s teacher residents are 76 percent non-white. Our teachers’ demographics reflect the populations they serve.

i3/EIR: How far along are you in your grant?

HEARN: We are in the finalyear of a 5-year i3 Development grant. 

i3/EIR: What’s been the biggest challenge?

HEARN: Due to the fact that our program has generated strong positive impacts, we have significant pressure to scale more quickly and broadly than we believe we should, and to make exceptions to rules we set for ourselves about how we will conduct our work. It has required tremendous self-discipline to scale for breadth only when we were ready, to live/work by the norms we believe should guide all collaborative practices. Those tenets are:

  • Stay Engaged
  • Speak Your Truth
  • Experience Discomfort
  • Expect and Accept Non-Closure
  • Pay Attention to Patterns of Participation
  • Contextual Confidentiality
  • Go to the Source

Finally, it has been a challenge to face inequities based on social identities (race, income, religion, gender, etc.), which we now understand are a foundational problem in many of our schools. We’re also trying to build this work into teacher training and into and examination of our own practices. We have only just begun, although we've been at it for two years now. 

i3/EIR: What’s an unexpected lesson you’ve learned so far?

HEARN: Mentoring is very powerful for growing the capacity of teachers—that's well-established by research and our own observations—but it is a huge challenge to ensure that good mentoring happens consistently and meaningfully ways in schools. We have figured out the structures that create the conditions for successful mentoring, but we didn't realize we would need to spend so much time doing this! 

Mentors often experience a great revitalization of their teaching when their skill and knowledge is honored and when they are offered opportunities for teacher leadership. 

Take the time required to carefully investigate and evaluate the problem before trying to solve it. As Einstein (may have) once said, "If I had an hour to solve a problem, I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and five minutes thinking about solutions." It takes tremendous discipline to deeply investigate all we know about what's not going well—to deeply examine the problem from different perspectives—before beginning to propose solutions. Yet when we do, it is much more likely we will not squander resources (time, money) as we do move toward a solution and much more likely the effort will truly address the problem.