Inquiry-to-Action Groups

Starting in late September, fellows participate in Inquiry-to Action Groups (ITAGs) (6-8 weeks long) as they continue to complete more in-depth work in video production, curriculum design, and education advocacy. The ITAGs are designed to deepen awareness of the interconnectedness of racial and economic structures surrounding the current school reform movement, and to spur teacher-organizing efforts in Baltimore. The fall ITAG focuses on in-depth study of specific teaching protocols, curriculum projects, and problems of practice surfaced by participants. In the winter we have a Beginner Video Workshop. In the spring ITAG we work on identifying and exposing the central contradictions and dilemmas of teaching, with a focus on describing the human face of policy.

TDP supports ITAGs by providing a friendly space to meet, a communication process, research on tools and resources, a lending library of education/activist books, and expertise in a variety of topics.  We will draw on several recently published books coming out of over a decade of teacher organizing experience by scholar-activists in New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, and other cities. We may also ask local authors and speakers to join our groups as guests. Group members will determine the precise “action” goal or set of practical outcomes for each group, but we anticipate that these goals will all involve galvanizing teachers around a vision the schools and the union teachers and students deserve.

The work of the ITAGs will be enhanced by travel to national conferences and site visits to community-run schools such as the Boggs School in Detroit and Mission Hill School in Boston. Travel plans will be finalized prior to the start of the school year.

We hope that TDP fellows will participate in at least 2 of the 3 groups. Other interested teachers and education activists (TDP Associates) are invited to participate in one or more groups. Fellows and associates may also opt to convene additional ITAGs based on their interests.

These workshops are focused on researching and creating authentic products that can either be used in the classroom or as part of an advocacy effort.

Details of the ITAGs

Low Floor/High Ceiling Math for Middle School: Aug-Oct 2015

This workshop is an opportunity for 8-10 middle school math teachers to research, make, implement and reflect on math lesson plans and pedagogical approaches using a structured peer-review process.  The workshop will be led by a highly experienced Baltimore City math instructor.  Participants will have the opportunity to earn up to 3 pre-approved Achievement Units. This whole project will take approximately 45 hours from mid-July to mid-October:

  • Curriculum Workshop to discuss specific elements of math curriculum and appropriate pedagogical approaches
  • Individual planning and preparation of curriculum with instructor feedback on-line
  • Documenting implementation, refining, publishing plans to share online, at conferences, as school-based PD

Social Justice Curriculum Writing (Wed 5-7pm–Sep 30; Oct 7, 14, 21, 28; Nov 4, 11, 18; Dec 2 2015)

This ITAG is an opportunity for 6-8 teachers to research and implement a social justice unit plan to be published using a peer-review process (similar to the Chicago Grassroots Curriculum). Building on the curriculum planning work begun during the TDP Summer Institute, teachers get together in interest/subject area groups to discuss details of protocols they are using in their classrooms, share student projects, research useful resources, and invite local experts and community leaders to join their discussions. The goal is for teachers to find common ground in their day-to-day classroom work, and to find ways to collaborate more deeply in inter-school projects and organizing efforts. Participants may earn a stipend of up to $500. The whole project will take approximately 45 hours from early October to mid-December.  Participants in the TDP Summer Curriculum Workshop have priority for this workshop:

  • Curriculum Workshop to discuss research, original source documents, readings, and pedagogy
  • Individual planning and preparation of curriculum with peer feedback online
  • Documenting implementation, refining, publishing to share online, at conferences, as school-based PD

Beginner Video Production (Wed 5-7 pm–Dec 2, 9, 16 Jan 6, 13, 20)

This workshop is geared toward people who have taken the Introductory Video Workshop.  The six sessions will include short readings, examples of video effects, practice exercises, one-on-one assistance, and additional resources.  The topics will include:

  • Participatory documentary process–Feedback sessions on rough drafts
  • Vignettes
  • Making a video with students
  • Video as assessment–using video to assess a process or product
  • Interviews–questions, lighting, styles,
  • Montage

There will be assignments after each week to prepare for the spring Intermediate Video Production.

Education Advocacy: Reading and Research (Wed 5-7pm–Mar 2, 9, 16, 23; Apr 6, 13, 20, 27)

This ITAG is an opportunity for 8-10 teachers and education advocates to do some serious reading and research into the issues behind the current trends in education policy.  We will examine how the various forms of privatization facing public education tend to work together to deepen race and class-based inequalities. Over the 8-week period we will look at different aspects of Federal and local school reform policies, and the resistance these policies have engendered. The topics will include (but are not limited to): charter schools in Maryland, merit-based pay, high stakes testing and the Opt Out movement, corporate and local philanthropy, school closings and the struggle for local control of schools, school choice in our local context, and the state of segregation/desegregation in our schools. Our intent is to focus on understanding how the various policies work together, the dilemmas they reveal, and to describe the human face of these interwoven policies.  Participants will help establish the reading list, discuss the readings each week, and assist each other in the different stages of research, data collection and writing.  Participants can apply to earn a stipend of up to $350 or apply their products toward earning credit in Summer 2016 (with a tuition award).

The end products may include:

  • A series of opinion pieces for publication in newspapers in response to current issues
  • Short articles for magazines and weeklies
  • Blogs/stories for our website
  • Data to be added to the shared grassroots school database project
  • Presentations at a school board meeting; testimony in Annapolis or City Council; a story to be told at our July 2016 “School Stories: The Human Face of Policy”

Intermediate Video Production: February to JuNe 2016

This is an opportunity for a selected group of approximately 6-7 people to participate in an on-going series of workshops and one-on-one on-site professional consultation with the goal of making a polished 5-minute film to be shown at our end-of-year “School Stories: The Human Face of Policy” event in late June/early July 2016. Priority will be given to existing TDP fellows who attended the Beginner Video Production workshop.  Other spaces will be filled as available.

Participants may earn a stipend of up to $500.  There is also a possibility of earning 3 AU’s.  This whole project will take approximately 45 hours.  Here is a list of the requirements and timelines we anticipate.  All times are approximate:

Submit a plan for your video (2 hours)

Evening meeting to review the plans and update shooting skills (3 hours)

Mar-Apr—arrange 1:1 individual coaching on at least one shoot (2 hours)

Mar-Apr—shoot and edit footage with 5 or more interviews (10 hours)

Work Session (optional workday on weekend) (3 hours)

Peer Review Session (on weekend) narrative flow and broll plan (3 hours)

Video Interviewee Feedback Session (by appointment ) (1 hour)

Complete broll and incorporate feedback from participants (5 hours)

Peer Review Session (on weekend)  broll, titles, music, audio etc (4 hours)

Finalize all elements (on own) (5 hours)

Workday/one-on-one assistance on finishing touches (4 hours)

May–assist with outreach for event

Early June—attend “School Stories” event! (3 hours)