When it comes to education, teachers say they know what it takes to motivate students, and also what doesn't work -- including standardized testing, cookie cutter curriculums and what NEA President Martha Allen calls punitive evaluation systems. But the number one issue teachers say they need -- is more time.
"I think what is important is that teachers have the time to do their professional work during that day -- not necessarily with students -- but with their colleagues or on their own. So that needs to be put into the classroom, into the school day, and honored," Allen said.
Meaning, rather than having teachers pull lunchroom and playground duty, let them use that time for collaboration. The union also wants to expand the ability of local schools to come up with innovative programs to help students thrive.
And in some schools, that is already happening. Colchester High School has just launched a new initiative called "An Hour of Code." The goal is to give each student the opportunity to write their own computer code. The school won $10,000 worth of computer hardware and accessories to be used to give each student in the school at least one hour of experience writing code by using on-line tutorials by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, the Khan Academy and Angry Birds.
"This is like a fantastic way for us to see if there are kids who would not even know if they have aptitude or interest or find it exciting. So hopefully we can get in touch with those kids after this and see what their interest level is, do they want to learn more and we can hopefully give them outlets to pursue that stuff," said Will Warren, the high school's Science & Health Team Leader.
It's exactly the kind of program the Vermont Teachers Union would like to see more of. "Those kinds of programs, working with other businesses -- we would like to work more closely with businesses -- to provide those kinds of opportunities for kids. Hopefully we will get some more computer programmers out of that," Martha Allen said.
Students WCAX spoke with were happy with their experience. "I think it is an important skill because almost our entire lives -- this generation revolves around some sort of technology -- so we are using code all the time, you just don't know it," said Colchester senior Ashley Church.
"I haven't really considered code before, so right now it seems fun being able to have that control in your hands in order to make programs and operate them," said Hytham Mohamed, a junior.
Teaching these students they can learn the basics when it comes to becoming a creator and innovator.