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Staying Close to the Teacher

by Jonathan Silin & Fran Schwartz - 2003

Although the critical role of teachers in curricular reform is well documented, there has been less focus on how the messiness of life in schools affects the daily work of change agents. Drawing on qualitative and quantitative data collected over a 5-year period, we argue that in troubled urban school districts, teacher buy-in to curricular reform is best achieved when change agents adapt their program to the daily needs and problems of classroom teachers. We look in detail at how staff developers help teachers generate strategies for reading and dealing effectively with district demands, so they can simultaneously fulfill official directives and implement progressive classroom practices. Staff developers enable teachers to function as street-level bureaucrats, who then determine how policy will come to life in their classrooms. In turn staff developers learn to read resistance as a form of communicative action to be interpreted rather than a roadblock to be overcome. Finally, we identify three rolesstrategist, translator, and advocatethat staff developers play when working with teachers to create the orderly and coherent classrooms children need to learn and thrive.

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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 105 Number 8, 2003, p. 1586-1605
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 11557, Date Accessed: 7/27/2021 1:45:44 AM

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About the Author
  • Jonathan Silin
    Bank Street College of Education
    JONATHAN SILIN is codirector of research for Project New Beginnings, a major urban school reform initiative, and a member of the graduate faculty, Bank Street College of Education. His research interests include the nature of contemporary childhood and socially relevant curriculum for young children. He is the author of Sex, Death, and the Education of Children: Our Passion for Ignorance in the Age of AIDS (Teachers College Press, 1995), coproducer of Children Talk About AIDS (Teachers College Press, 1999) and coeditor of Putting the Children First: The Changing Face of Newark’s Public Schools (Teachers College Press, 2003).
  • Fran Schwartz
    Bank Street College of Education
    FRAN SCHWARTZ is codirector of research for Project New Beginnings. She has evaluated school reform efforts in New York and Philadelphia and helped schools develop educationally meaningful relationships with families. Her research interests include arts in education and the potential of teacher research to promote family-school collaboration. She maintains a private practice in family and couple therapy in New York City.
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