Glatter: Do you provide the lesson plans for the parachute teachers or do they create them on their own?
Cherry Rice: Oftentimes, the regular teacher who leaves will have a folder in the back of the classroom where they leave any lesson plans for the substitute to pick up. I would say the majority of the time, I don’t see substitutes use that folder, and they might be out of date lessons anyway. The teachers are putting something in there that's pretty easy, hopefully that anybody can pick up. But it’s really hard to take someone else’s lesson plan and then execute it. So we don’t believe that anyone can come in, unless you’re a super human, and take someone else’s lesson plan and execute it in a way that’s really effective and meaningful for students. We believe that Parachute Teachers—whatever their expertise is, whatever their talent is—should be teaching what they’re passionate about, and they’re designing their own lessons to deliver to students.
Glatter: After that, what's the oversight like? Are the Parachute Teachers evaluated at all?
Cherry Rice: Our teachers exist in a market place, and schools are going in and saying “I want to have pottery at this time during this day with these sets of students.” So one of the things we’ve implemented is principal feedback. One of our core values is continuous feedback, not only as an organization; our teachers are getting continuous feedback from the schools. And the area that we’re piloting this year is students giving feedback to the Parachute Teachers. We actually think that’s a whole heck of a lot more valuable than principals. Principals might pass by a classroom a few times a day and pop their head in, but they’re managing the school. Students are really the end-user here. Students are sitting in that class, whether it’s an hour or two hours or three hours. So we’re thinking through what it looks like for students to give meaningful feedback to Parachute Teachers to help them develop their practice.
Glatter: Are Parachute Teachers in all types of schools—public, private, charter, magnet, etc.—right now?
Cherry Rice: Right now we’re very focused on urban public schools for no other reason than that’s where my heart and passion is. I worked in Philadelphia; it’s where human capital can be the most scarce. There’s a statistic that, generally, students across all schools spend about six months over their lifetime with a substitute teacher. In urban schools, it can be one to two to three years. So we really do have a focus on serving some of the highest-need schools. However, we have a wait-list right now of schools that want to work with us, and that includes charter schools, private schools, suburban schools. Everyone, if you’re in a school system, believes human capital—who’s in front of your students—is extremely valuable.