People Want To Talk
Now, 10 to 15 of the 30 high school teachers and college faculty members attend any given meeting. Although they officially meet from 7 to 9 P.M., participants usually stay until after 11, says Metzger, an English teacher at Brookline High School.
The meetings are very loosely structured, with members talking informally while snacking on whatever food they've brought. They usually discuss a particular reading, often a book or article, and sometimes they invite speakers as well. At one meeting, the group discussed Tracy Kidder's Among Schoolchildren; at another, they talked about a member's experiences teaching in England. Recently, the group was asked to review a new curriculum created at Brown University.
At the moment, the group is thriving without a designated leader; they sometimes block out time to discuss a book or article ahead of time, but they always remain flexible enough to talk about a pressing issue that might emerge.
The teachers say the cooperative gives them a nonthreatening opportunity to play with ideas and keeps them up to date on current trends in education. "I read things that I otherwise wouldn't read,'' says Metzger. "It gives me a theoretical framework for what I'm doing.'' As an added bonus, she says, members can ask the group to critique their own writing; this has encouraged some of the teachers to publish their work.
Metzger believes that any group of committed teachers can start such a cooperative with no more than a "strong personality'' and plenty of photocopy material. And, she says, the chances for success are bolstered by one universal truth: "People want to talk. Give teachers the chance, and they will talk about education.''