I’m excited to be profiling Noga Newberg, a teacher at Folk Arts Charter School (currently on maternity leave) in Philadelphia, and a great example of a reflective practitioner. I know Noga through the Philadelphia Teachers Learning Cooperative (PTLC), a group of Philadelphia public and charter school teachers that have engaged in teacher inquiry and practice for almost 40 years. PTLC meets weekly to discuss questions of practice, primarily using the descriptive review processes developed by Patricia Carini (read From Another Angle: Children’s Strengths and School Standards : The Prospect Center’s Descriptive Review of the Child (Practitioner Inquiry) to learn more about this process). When a teacher engages in the descriptive review process, they learn to see children with greater depth and develop an understanding of how their practice affects students. I credit PTLC and the descriptive review process with helping to develop my ethnographic research skills and learning to see underlying trends and themes in student work and behaviors.
In Noga’s profile, you’ll learn about what drew her into teaching and how teacher networks like PTLC and working with school colleagues has shaped her practice. This is the picture of a transformative teacher engaged in truly collaborative teacher inquiry.
Can you share a little background with us about your teaching career? For example, what brought you into teaching? What do you teach?
My father is an educator and from a very young age, I was interested in his stories about his students, their lives and their teachers. When I came to Penn, I didn’t know I wanted to become a teacher but I knew that I cared about social justice and cities. I studied Urban Studies and chose to do most of my course work through service-learning courses. It was an extremely enriching experience. I found myself working with exemplary teachers at University City High School from my freshman year all the way through my senior year. I worked with incredible teachers such as Dina Portnoy and Margo Ackerman who eventually became my mentors. Those experiences solidified my decision to become a teacher. I spent two years working at the Center for Community Partnerships at Penn and continuing some of the work I had done as an undergrad. As soon as an opportunity presented itself, I found a way to get into the classroom full time. I got into Paul Vallas’s Literacy Intern program and worked under a wonderful teacher at the Powel school. It was really at that point that I began my education as a teacher. I learned a great deal from Gill Maimon whom eventually became a lifelong (hopefully) mentor of mine.
Eventually, I made my way to third grade teaching for four years at Independence Charter School. I’m now on maternity leave from Folk Arts Cultural Treasures Charter School (F.A.C.T.S) where I teach 5th grade language arts.
What motivates and sustains you as a teacher?
I am consistently motivated by the rigor of teaching. I love the daily challenges that teaching presents– there is literally never a dull a moment. The rigor can at times feel like a burden and it is in those moments that I turn to my colleagues and networks. FACTS encourages collaborative planning and teaching and I have one colleague (my ESL partner) in particular with whom I plan on a weekly basis.
What do you think needs to change or happen in education/schools?
Pre-service teachers need to be mentored from the moment they enter a school through their first few years of teaching. Teaching cannot be done alone. I think schools need to embrace collaborative teaching. Most importantly, what needs to change in our society, is that our government, and the rich and powerful, need to start respecting teachers and understanding that its the most important job. When people start respecting our profession, maybe then we’ll be able to teach what we want to teach, do away with the tests, and focus on what matters, the kids.
What is something that you are passionate about as a teacher/learner and how do you incorporate it into your teaching?
I care about making space for each student. I care deeply about listening to each student, their needs, their backgrounds, their wants. I use Responsive Classroom strategies to help create a community where all learners are respected and valued. Responsive Classroom has also taught me how to listen to the language I use with students and alter it to be more compassionate, clear and direct. I’m passionate about justice. One of the reasons I’ve been so excited to join the FACTS community, is to teach in a school that truly embodies issues of justice. For example, we have a book clubs unit on gender social issues.
What groups, individuals, or networking contexts have supported you in your work? How?
I am a Teacher Coach in the Philadelphia Writing Project. The summer institute really pushed me to think about ways that I can use my own stories and writing in the classroom. As I said earlier Responsive Classroom has been an important group for me and I have participated in many of their workshops and seminars. I’ve been deeply inspired by Lucy Calkins and her work around the Reading and Writing workshops. I find her ideas so thought provoking and challenging. This work really raises the level of rigor in my classroom. Most importantly, I have been part of the Teachers Learning Collaborative for all 9 years of my teaching career. This small group of Philadelphia teachers have created a space where I can reflect on my practice in a safe environment. I come away from every TLC meeting full of ideas on how to support my students and my ever changing practice.
What advice can you share with new teachers just entering the field?
Find networks that you can align yourself with and at least one teacher that you can call your confidant.
About Transformative Teacher Profiles: TTPs are meant to “flip the script” and offer a counter-narrative to negative and dehumanizing stereotypes about teachers. Here you’ll read about truly transformative teaching, leadership, and inspiring work. The format is simple: I ask six questions of each teacher that I profile about their teaching and learning. If you know of amazing teachers that I should profile, please write me a comment below or send me a tweet about them!
COMING UP SOON on this blog….
-Guest Blogger Emery Petchauer kicks off the Educational Thought Leader series by explaining “How Not to Teach Like a Hip Hop Champion“
-Reflections on EduCon
-Book Review Part 2: “Sitting Still Like a Frog: Mindfulness Meditation for Kids” – Kid-Tested: The Aftermath