For Eric Shed, a teacher turned teacher educator, to be able to join a program from its inception was too great an opportunity to refuse.
“I am industrious and enterprising,” he says, “and I’ve always wanted to take the lead on a program from the beginning.”
Shed joined the Ed School this June as a lecturer and director of Harvard Teacher Fellows (HTF) Program, coming from Brown University where he was a lecturer and director of history and social studies secondary education. By all accounts, Shed has hit the ground running, already having hired three full-time faculty members to join him and HTF Associate Director Stephen Mahoney. Here, Shed speaks about his own time as a teacher, and his hopes for the HTF.
What appealed to you about heading HTF?
The nature of the program, in that it will provide comprehensive support and training for those entering teaching, is unprecedented.
Another thing is this program’s commitment to be innovative and to focus on high-need urban schools. I have spent my career working in schools where students faced many challenges. This program is committed to working in those schools — with students in communities that need it most — in innovative ways. We're thinking strategically. Clearly we have a problem in our school system when kids aren't succeeding.
How will your past experience as a high school teacher inform your role as director?
I understand the real challenges and joys of teaching, framed in a realistic experience. I have learned a lot both from those challenges and from my mistakes. I look at our program through a practical lens toward the important work, with a real thorough knowledge of the challenge.
People often underestimate — and overestimate — what students can do. I have taught in diverse school settings. People talk about urban schools all the time as if they are all challenging places filled with black and brown faces. That’s like throwing out the term “food” as if there is only one kind, but there are vegetables, chicken, filet mignon … . Urban schools have a large variety with a lot of nuance. I will be able to bring attention to those nuances.
What does this new program mean for teacher education?
Ultimately, we're looking to draw on and develop best practices and approaches — in course work and the overall student-teacher experience — as best as possible. We’ll be innovating, as well as a synthesizing and implementing a lot of things already out there. What I hope is that this program will become a model of an extremely effective route for teacher education.
What are you most looking forward to?
I am looking forward to working with amazing folks on the faculty at both HGSE and Harvard College. The existing faculty is really talented and thoughtful. I am also looking forward to developing the HTF faculty and developing a cohesive team that has input and buy-in into the procedures, goals, and philosophies of the program. Collectively, we will develop something amazing for the Harvard students and partner schools we serve. That we have the luxury of time to spend a semester — and this [past] summer — to get the program into shape is a true gift. I’m sure there will be a lot of challenges and hiccups along the way, but it’s really special to allow us the time to develop.