Jesse Solomon, BPE’s Executive Director, founded the Boston Teacher Residency program in 2003. Previously, he taught middle and high school math for 10 years at the King Open School in Cambridge, Brighton High School, and City on a Hill Public Charter School, where he was a founding teacher, lead teacher for curriculum and instruction, and a member of the board of directors. While at City on a Hill, he founded the Teachers Institute, a school-based teacher preparation program. He has been an instructor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and is a National Board-certified teacher. Mr. Solomon holds a B.S. in mathematics from MIT and an M.Ed. from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
Inspiration to teach:
When I was in the third grade, I hung a sign in the local grocery store advertising a class I would offer in which I led kids over to the local pond to look at whatever we could find through my microscope – my Mom volunteered to help us cross the busy street to get there. While no one signed up for that class – I think my handwriting made parents suspicious – my career choice had been made. Pretty much every job/activity I had after that day was with kids – coaching sports, tutoring, teaching – and when I graduated college and had to find a real job teaching seemed like a fairly natural choice. I taught for ten years, mostly high school math. As a math teacher in Boston, I spent a lot of time working to create classroom cultures built around intellectually challenging discussions of important ideas. I worked to help students both ask and answer questions, talk to each other (not just me) about mathematics, and see math as a set of tools and ways of thinking that were broadly useful, powerful and elegant. As someone who thinks “Calculus = beauty” and wanted other people to think the same thing, I concentrated a lot on helping all student attain high levels of mathematics proficiency.
As a teacher, and in various roles I took on supporting other teachers, I thought a lot about how new teachers were entering schools and the profession in general. I saw too many new teachers – smart, hardworking, committed people – enter the profession enthusiastically and be unable to find success in a classroom. Too often, these teachers moved on, or were moved on. I always had, in the back of my mind, the notion that we could do urban teacher preparation in a much better way, and I founded BTR because I believed there had to be better ways for new teachers to prepare for, enter, and ultimately be successful in urban schools.
We created BTR mostly around what we would consider common sense ideas. We knew that:
• people need intensive, mentored learning experiences in schools – where the action happens – and that they needed regular opportunities to reflect on those experiences
• we needed to help people bridge the theoretical and the practical
• new teachers need ongoing support through their first few years of teaching
• it helps to be part of a team
• many people need financial assistance to be able to afford the luxury of learning to teach well.
We knew that there was no magic bullet, no shortcut. We didn’t believe that we could help create a terrific new generation of teachers in an instant, or just by doing one thing well. We knew we have to try to combine as many good practices as we can. And we know that we have to constantly improve. While we believe strongly in what we do and how we do it – we try never to let our own ideologies get in the way of what the data tell us. Our size, our proximity to the work, and the quality of our people (our Residents, graduates, mentors, site directors, instructors, coaches, staff) allows us to work at getting better continuously. Finally, putting student academic achievement at the fore, being clear about our ultimate goal, has helped us refine and target our efforts.
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