Warriors and Caregivers: Teachers Sharing with Teachers
We are warriors and caregivers, celebrating Share My Lesson’s 10th anniversary and being 2 million members strong.
Many of you have probably heard that the best professional development is from the teacher down the hall, and I wholeheartedly agree. However, when was the last time that you were able to actually learn from another teacher, browse their resources, and check to see how their ideas align with yours? As amazing as it sounds, it is also wildly impractical, and even the most forward-thinking schools don’t pull this one off easily. Ultimately, we, as teachers, know that our greater community of educators not only have the best ideas and resources, but they also save us from reinventing the wheel. Teachers sharing with teachers is in our DNA. What you might not know is that one of the biggest teachers unions—the American Federation of Teachers—not only understands this, but a decade ago put this understanding into action and created Share My Lesson. And this year, Share My Lesson is celebrating a decade of believing in the collective power of our voices, and has now reached 2 million members! This free, award-winning community-based site brings together educators, parents and caregivers, paraprofessionals and school-related personnel, specialized instructional support personnel, union and nonunion members, educational partners, and higher education professionals who have the common goal of finding and sharing our best educational resources.
When people think of unions, we often think of bargaining, salaries, benefits, grievances, and sometimes even picket lines. While those are all crucial components we rely upon, it is also important to recognize some other functions of the union that receive less attention. Share My Lesson’s resources include free lesson plans, worksheets, presentations and projects—searchable by grade and standard—that are ready to use. And many are created by that teacher down the hall! In New York, where I live, Share My Lesson webinars can even be used for CTLE (Continuing Teacher and Leader Education) hours. Each spring and summer, Share My Lesson’s virtual conferences provide webinars that address the needs of teachers in real time. When the pandemic hit, the AFT was there, leading the way, broaching the difficult conversations with solutions that went on to become the blueprints for our safe return to school.
In these complicated times, I think it is important to reflect and celebrate the various ways the union provides for teachers. When I think of my own tenure as a union president, I’ve come to realize that the work of unions can be framed as adversarial, and it often is, by necessity. Our work is described in the language of war: fight, battle, organize, defend and disrupt. Trust me, I’ve had my fair share of days like that, to be sure; however, the work I’m most proud of is supporting teachers as we take this journey together, and that is how I view Share My Lesson.
Ultimately, we, as teachers, know that our greater community of educators not only have the best ideas and resources, but they also save us from reinventing the wheel.
The other side of the union, one that isn’t always acknowledged, can be described with an entirely different language: supporting, nurturing, connecting and collaborating. These sides of the union work dichotomously to support educators, and it is no small feat that 2 million people are now a part of the collective knowledge of Share My Lesson! This number represents a vision of education that we must support, defend and build. This is a space where educators can find their voice and shout out to others who are helping build a better future for our students, families and communities.
A decade ago, I had the pleasure to start sharing some of my favorite lessons and the privilege of writing the first-ever blog for Share My Lesson, written to celebrate the teachers sitting with me as we vetted the first resources to be uploaded, gathered to make sure that the AFT was providing high-quality resources for its members. Collectively, those at the table had more than 120 years of combined experience, and I was humbled by the way we were working together to offer members a hand in their own classrooms, a virtual teacher down the hall, accessible at all times, all for free. Five years later, I gave this speech at TEACH 2017 about the need for teachers to curate their own narrative of teaching because others might try to usurp it. Little did I know then what we would come up against, but I’m proud to say that Share My Lesson has grown and adapted to all that has been thrown at us in education. I want to take this special milestone of reaching 2 million members and a decade of connecting and curating on our behalf, to encourage all educators to share their resources, utilize all the site has to offer, but most important, celebrate the AFT. We have a union that simultaneously fights, battles, organizes, defends and disrupts, but is supporting, nurturing, connecting and collaborating. We, the members of AFT, are warriors and caretakers, and that is the power of our collective voices!