Don't Keep Great Teaching a Secret


By Tim Daly

Too often, great teaching is a well-kept secret.

At the end of the hall, there’s a math classroom where students who struggle elsewhere consistently flourish. There’s a band teacher who somehow creates championship ensembles of students who’ve never touched an instrument in their lives. There’s a physics class that propels graduate after graduate into top-tier universities. But outside the school—and sometimes inside, too—nobody really sees it.

As a country, we have done a shoddy job of giving these life-changing teachers and classrooms the recognition they deserve. And at a time when schools are more focused than ever on rigorous teaching and deep learning, we have to do better. We believe great teachers deserve our full attention.

That’s why TNTP created the Fishman Prize for Superlative Classroom Practice, a $25,000 annual award given to four incredible teachers—and the only national award exclusively for teachers in high-poverty public schools.

What makes the Fishman Prize special isn’t just that it rewards great teachers with a big check. We see the Fishman Prize as a way to bring together some of the country’s best educators, give them the opportunity to learn from each other, and allow the entire teaching profession to learn from them.

Every year, the winners collaborate during a month-long summer residency. They reflect on their classroom practices, explore the larger issues that shape their profession, and meet with top educators, writers, researchers, and policymakers. And they emerge having created something tangible, a collection of essays they’ve written in their own voices, about their work in the classroom.

Today, we’re thrilled to publish the 2014 Fishman Prize winners’ essays, Languages for Learning.

If you are a junkie for great teaching, I strongly urge you to drop whatever you are doing and read the essays now. Like right now. Read them more than once. Pick your favorite passages and read them aloud to your friends. The essays are that good.
In the essays, you’ll hear how “deep discipline” helps students who have never touched an instrument become championship band members. You’ll see what “getting to know your students”
means, in an AP Calculus classroom. You’ll hear why learning physics starts with talking like a 10-year old. And you’ll learn what Hiroshima has to do with teaching fourth grade English language learners in Oakland.
This essay collection is unlike anything else you’ll find out there. Four of the best teachers in the country open the doors to their classrooms and share the specific strategies that propel their students to success. I’d like to extend my thanks to the authors for their exceptional work.  We’ll all be the beneficiaries. 
We’re also excited to open applications and nominations for the 2015 Fishman Prize.
Now we’re looking for the next set of winners—and that’s where you come in. Last year, we received thousands of nominations and more than 800 applications from teachers nationwide. From now until December 16, you can nominate a teacher or apply for yourself (a nomination is not required).
Don’t treat great teaching like a secret.

Tim Daly is president of TNTP.