Understood x Blue Engine Teacher Fellowship

By The Understood Team

At Understood, we believe that teachers can be change agents for students who learn and think differently. In 2018, we launched the Understood Teacher Fellowship to catalyze teachers as leaders and learn from their pivotal work in classrooms.

We collaborate with current classroom teachers in the Understood Teacher Fellowship. Over the course of the school year, the Teacher Fellows continue their work in classrooms while participating in professional learning communities and other opportunities to deepen their knowledge of learning and thinking differences. They also develop leadership skills and share what they’ve learned with other educators. 

We partnered with Blue Engine during the 2021 school year to offer this free professional development opportunity as a virtual fellowship. 

About the Fellowship

The Understood x Blue Engine (UxBE) Teacher Fellowship aimed to equip educators with the essential knowledge, mindsets, and skills to help not only the 1 in 5 students who learn and think differently — but all students — thrive in their classrooms. 

This virtual fellowship consisted of a professional learning community, online courses with accompanying activities, individual and group support, and opportunities to learn from experts in the field of learning and thinking differences. UxBE Fellows:

  • Collaborated with and learn from other educators who share a similar passion
  • Engaged in virtual coaching experiences and other coaching opportunities 
  • Collected data that indicate changes in teacher practice and student growth
  • Engaged in the four key courses of the Understood Teacher Fellowship

Course Descriptions: Each course took approximately three to four hours to complete over six to eight weeks. Teachers had the opportunity to explore Understood resources, engage in activities relevant to current classroom priorities, and collaborate with other fellows. 

  • Teacher as Investigator: This course helped teachers develop the skill of careful observation of student strengths and needs. It also built teachers’ understanding of IEPs, and emphasized the importance of empathy.
  • Teacher as Architect: This course explored the key principles of Universal Design for Learning, the skills to analyze potential barriers for learning, and techniques to implement flexibly designed lessons.
  • Teacher as Head Coach: This course focused on the importance of collaboration with colleagues and the development of best practices for students who learn and think differently.
  • Teacher as Change Agent: This course focused on policy and advocacy initiatives for those who learn and think differently and how to develop a plan to influence change.

Selection

The 2021 cohort included more than 50 diverse educators with a varying range of experiences. 

UxBE Teacher Fellows were chosen for their dedication to serving and including students who learn and think differently. These teachers share a passion for equitable outcomes for all students. They have demonstrated leadership skills in and out of the classroom. Some learn or think differently themselves, or are parents of children who learn and think differently. 

Learn More About Blue Engine

Blue Engine unlocks the transformative power of team teaching. By optimizing how educators work together, Blue Engine ensures teachers reach every learner — leading to gains in academic achievement for all students, particularly those who are marginalized by racism and bias. To achieve this, Blue Engine helps school leaders and teachers provide differentiated instruction that accelerates learning. Their support centers on four key areas: teacher knowledge of each student’s learning needs and profile; intentional adaptation of content and instruction; various, targeted instructional practices including small group instruction, and consistent collaboration among all the adults teaching together.

The prevalence of historic and current systems of oppression in our society fundamentally impacts the lives of the students in the educational system. To work toward a hopeful, empowered future for every student in every classroom across the country, Blue Engine has committed to building alliances that disrupt and dismantle these systems at their root by assembling diverse, inclusive, and actively anti-racist teams, at the organization, school, and partnership levels. To this end, Blue Engine has developed a “team teaching” model that enables two instructors, general and special educators working as co-teachers, to more effectively address the needs of all students. 

Over the last 10 years, Blue Engine has impacted more than 15,000 students in New York City through its model. The majority of Blue Engine’s students are considered economically disadvantaged. Compounding the educational challenges of living in historically marginalized communities, approximately 20 percent of Blue Engine’s students receive special education services due to intellectual disabilities and other learning differences, while 15–20 percent are English language learners. 

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