The guiding philosophy of the Murdock-Thompson Center is this: schools are in need of reform, and systematic reform is not working; positive innovation and reform can be initiated by the individual teacher. While system-wide reforms have had rare and limited success, from the ground up changes can work in any school, and can affect many children in the classroom of the innovative teacher. In any case, the motivation of students and teachers is the key. We believe our Center can help in this area.
Teachers should be free to motivate students in new ways and to change the way they learn. Good teachers should be honored for their initiative, and should be given the means to replicate innovations and share them with colleagues.
The executive staff and the Board of Directors of the Center focus currently on the specifics of classroom change: we are most interested in pedagogical innovations as well as in specific motivational strategies. Often the two aims are combined in one classroom innovation.
The Summer Fellowship for Innovative Teachers is offered to further these aims. We hope to encourage teachers to consciously examine teaching methods and educational research, to risk new methods, to keep records of their results, and to publish and share their findings.
The $2,000 stipend is intended to liberate the teacher from other pursuits during the summer, and to facilitate the work of either researching and preparing materials for pedagogical or curricular change or replicating successful programs and writing about them for the benefit of colleagues.
The stipend also confers the status of an award on the fellowship, and appropriately honors the individual teacher who risks change. Press releases accompany the award.
Competition is open to pre-university teachers. They must be full-time, but may be in their first year of teaching. Teachers and administrators may call or write for more details. An application package is available, and must be returned for a March 31 deadline.
The Teacher’s Defense Fund, another arm of the Center’s effort, has its own philosophy: teachers should not be dismissed without a fair hearing because of their speech or ideas; such dismissals result in fearful teaching and a degrading of the learning process. Students who observe such administrative reactions suffer a loss of respect for the institution and for the learning environment.