Super Teacher's Job is Never Done!

Super Teacher's Job is Never Done!
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Teaching is the profession that teaches all the other professions. ~ Author Unknown

My goal is to reveal one teacher's humble journey of self-reflection, critical analysis, and endless questioning about my craft of teaching and learning alongside my middle school students.

"The dream begins with a teacher who believes in you, who tugs and pushes and leads you to the next plateau, sometimes poking you with a sharp stick called 'truth'." ~ Dan Rather

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

What DOES a great teacher training program look like?

One discussion board I participate in has been grappling with this question. One former Harvard peer's response stood out to me. Here it is:

A strong teacher education center would have 1) an emphasis on collaborative and critical inquiry and 2) an emphasis on issues of power, race, class, gender, sexuality, ability, and identity. By emphasis I mean several courses, listening to others' stories of personal experience, and plenty of time to digest material and reflect on new ideas and connections. 

Student teachers should take several classes that emphasize the role of protocols (such as Critical Exploration, Artist Circles, Collaborative Assessment Conferences, Peacekeeping Circles, etc.) in developing deep looking, listening, and collaborative inquiry and reflection. At HGSE, The Arts In Education program has one such course (I'm not sure which but I can find out); the Learning and Teaching program has T-440: The Having of Wonderful Ideas (Eleanor Duckworth),  and T-139: Student Work As Evidence: Investigating Learning and Teaching (Tina Blythe). 

None of the three courses I listed above is required for students in the Teacher Education Program (TEP) at HGSE. I believe it is essential for student teachers to investigate constantly their own assumptions about education and to collaboratively engage in reflective professional development about learning and teaching. They should be empowered to create such spaces for themselves, their students, and their colleagues where they can identify and pursue their own questions. After being exposed to these ideas in T-440, I felt the need to experience and explore them more fully, despite coming into the program with several years of teaching experience. For this reason and others I transferred out of TEP after the first semester and switched into Learning and Teaching where I was fortunate to take T-139, an excellent complementary or companion course to T-440. I highly recommend them both for teacher prep in any subject (academic, artistic, physical, etc.) and any age group from preschool to university. 

Power, class, race, gender, sexuality, ability, and identity are also hugely important for teacher preparation, but are often only marginally addressed. In the TEP program at HGSE, for example, these issues are condensed into modules--often meeting daily for a week, a structure that prevents/limits trust-building and authentic collaborative inquiry. Furthermore, the vast amount of information presented during these courses is overwhelming for students who are not familiar with it and frustrating for students who are familiar with it and who know that the issues require a lifetime of engagement and constant learning. Students have responded to this poor level of engagement with the above issues by planning and implementing a series of social justice workshops and by planning and participating in the annual Alumni of Color Conference.

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