January 13, 2016

Teachers Talk Back: Charell Milton

Charell Milton is a 5th grade math and science teacher and instructional coach at Barack Obama Charter School in Los Angeles, Calif. In this conversation with Danielle DeSantis, E4E-Los Angeles Senior Outreach Director, she shares her experience as a co-author of One School of Thought: Moving Toward the Common Core, a set of teacher-generated recommendations on the Common Core transition and implementation.

This interview has been condensed and edited with the interviewee’s approval.

Danielle DeSantis: Why did you join the Teacher Policy Team?

Charell Milton: I joined the Teacher Policy Team because I wanted to collaborate with other teachers. I also liked the mission that E4E stands for—giving teachers a voice because when teachers have a voice then students have a voice. I wanted to be a part of that. 

DD: What did you learn through the policy team process?

CM: I learned that I do have a voice. I felt like my opinion matters, which made me want to create that feeling in other teachers and in my students. It pushed me to have my students share with me so they can have a voice and feel the same feeling I did–empowerment. It’s only when teachers, students and parents feel empowered that we can—together—change the face of education.

DD: Did you have an a-ha moment during the Teacher Policy Team Process? 

CM: The a-ha moment was about empowerment and the power of feeling heard. I saw in action a process that fostered a culture in which everyone’s voice is important. I believe everyone deserves to have a chance to express their feelings and have those feelings valued by other people. Now, I try to foster that same culture in my classroom.

DD: Tell us more about your research and the recommendation you focused on. How would that recommendation benefit students and the profession?

CM: My recommendation is to leverage teachers as leaders at school sites in the transition to the CCSS. Schools need to leverage the experience and know-how of their teachers to implement the new standards. They have on-the-ground expertise and can share what is working in their classrooms, which, in turn, helps teachers be better teachers and helps our students learn more.

DD: Why is the school an important lever for CCSS? 

CM: The school is the front line. It is where implementation is actually happening. The way our students will become critical thinkers and 21st century learners will depend on whether they have good support and teaching. The way to ensure that high quality teaching is for school leaders to invest in teachers as instructional leaders.

DD: How has the policy team experience impacted you? 

CM: I’ve learned the value of collaboration and am excited about not only getting my students to collaborate in the classroom, but it made me appreciate the voices of other teachers. It makes me want to work harder to hear their voices and to elevate their voices. I hosted a focus group at my school about the Common Core transition, and it was a big moment for me. It crystalized the need to collaborate, share ideas and hear other perspectives within the school site. I realized my colleagues were doing incredible work with their students, and we need to empower each other as leaders within our own campus to ensure a smooth transition to the CCSS.

Go here to learn more about the work of the 2015 E4E-Los Angeles Teacher Policy Team on Common Core implementation and teacher leadership recommendations.