I’m in my first year of teaching and after a long day, I visit Adrianna Truby’s room.
“I’m not sure I’m getting through to them,” I say with a tired face. “They don’t seem to be paying attention, and I’m getting more and more frustrated.”
Truby, who serves as English department chair, has earned the community’s utmost respect. She is a supremely gifted teacher, and one of the finest individuals I have ever had the pleasure of calling my friend.
Truby is an exceptional listener, offering wise, calming advice. I leave her classroom feeling better and more self-assured.
Five years later, Truby is still my mentor. I am incredibly fortunate, especially since many of America’s young teachers lack needed support and guidance. For this reason, I wholeheartedly endorse SmarterCookie.com, a content-sharing site that allows teachers to upload footage of various lessons for peer review.
A teacher or coach records video of a lesson with a phone, laptop, or camera; uploads it to our platform; and privately shares it with others. Coaches, mentors, administrators, or other colleagues provide asynchronous time-stamped feedback on the teacher’s lesson. The teacher can then implement the actionable, specific feedback immediately.
I am excited to speak with SmarterCookie founder Tess Brustein. After three years of teaching Elementary School in New York, she moved to California to develop the site. She speaks with youthful vigor, and I’m interested to learn more about her time as a Teach for America corps member.
“I didn’t have much preparation going into the classroom,” Brustein says. “There were people there to support me, but they were just spread so thin. They had so many teachers on their plate that they needed to support.”
Brustein says that she really wanted to improve, but ineffective professional development meetings—which took place in a massive auditorium—made it difficult for her to implement new techniques and practices.
“I always found one-on-one coaching was the most helpful to me and actually changed what I was doing,” Brustein says.
I couldn’t agree more. Every new recruit deserves a mentor to develop strengths and keep effective teachers on the job. At schools where mentors are in short supply, though, SmarterCookie affords the next best thing—the chance to view and critique lessons at one’s convenience.
SmarterCookie is completely free, and users can upload as much as 10 minutes of video for anyone with an Internet connection to see. Various premium packages allow mentors to upload content on behalf of teachers.
I love the time-stamp feature, which allows mentors to mark where in the video they make a specific observation. New additions are also in development, including the ability to create groups, back-and-forth messaging and activity feeds.
Teacher quality is the primary in-school factor affecting student achievement. Yet developing great teachers is difficult. While professional development conferences and workshops are not always effective, coaching teachers through in-class observation is proven to work. SmarterCookie is a tool for coaches to help them support all their teachers more often and more effectively. Not only is video analysis a powerful method to help teachers improve, but our platform solves logistical and organizational nightmares for coaches.
I’m also extremely impressed by how seriously SmarterCookie takes privacy concerns. Only by receiving e-mail from a content creator can one view and comment on a video, and it’s virtually impossible to embed or download anything. I also give Brustein tremendous credit for not hosting their content on a mainstream server (like YouTube), providing extra reassurance that data won’t leak.
“There is an expectation of privacy that we definitely want to upload hold,” Brustein says, adding that she is always considering new and more effective ways to safeguard content.
I can’t wait to see how this amazing Web site develops.