Tag Archives: Preservice Teachers

Putting the Pieces Together

This post is written by member, Benjamin Boche.

COEBenjamin Boche, PhDAfter listening to Jacqueline Woodson speak at the 2014 NCTE Annual Convention about Brown Girl Dreaming and the importance of children seeing themselves on the insides and outsides of books, I’ve taken great care to put multicultural literature at the center of my undergraduate children’s literature class in my new role as an assistant professor of teacher education. As last fall breezed by, the preservice teachers and I read diverse books, had discussions, and nodded our heads in agreement about the importance of multicultural literature. The impetus behind the books, discussions, and agreements, however, came from me, the professor, rather than the preservice teachers. They were not taking ownership over the material, and I was unsure whether or not they saw themselves using multicultural literature in their future classrooms. This past semester I decided to change things up and use the process of inquiry circles (from Harvey & Daniels, 2009) to let my preservice teachers explore topics and present information on issues surrounding multicultural literature that were important to them rather than dictating topics myself.

Inquiry circles have opened up a new space for multicultural literature to come alive in my classroom and my preservice teachers’ future classrooms. I witnessed firsthand preservice teachers broadening their ideas not only of what constitutes multicultural literature, but also what they feel other preservice teachers should know about diverse student populations they may come into contact with in the future.

A major part of inquiry circles is “going public,” in which small groups must present a written and physical component about what they learned through their research on their chosen topic. Many of my preservice teachers chose to create resources for their classmates that helped to explain some diverse student characteristics that new teachers may see (such as autism, anxiety, and differing family structures) and directly link these characteristics to children’s literature. One group literally helped their classmates “put the puzzle together” on understanding autistic students and using children’s literature to promote autism awareness in their future classrooms.autism puzzle pieces

I look forward to continuing this project in the future and seeing what other pieces we can add to the ever-expanding picture of multicultural literature.

Harvey, S., & Daniels, H. (2009). Comprehension and collaboration: Inquiry circles in action. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Benjamin Boche is an assistant professor of education at Concordia University, Chicago, where he teaches children’s literature and elementary and middle level literacy methods and coordinates the middle level education program. He is looking forward to reading diverse children’s books this summer.

The Realities of Diversity: Perspective in Preservice Teaching

This is a blog post by NCTE member, Hailee Halverson. 

HalversonAs a preservice teacher attending the NCTE Annual Convention last fall, I was unsure what to expect. I walked in with little experience in teaching, few hours to experience building student/teacher relationships, and a burning desire to find what my curriculum might consist of in the following year. However, in Minneapolis, the world of teaching and reading diverse texts grabbed me and pulled me in.

In small-town Iowa, our high school classes read traditional texts that applied to our middle class, white population. However, in my first student placement, only 15 miles from where I grew up, the experience was completely different.

I started my first 8 weeks of teaching in a school that had more than 97 different languages; 62% of the students there are identified as “minority,” 67% eligible for free or reduced meals, 50% from homes speaking a language other than English, and 36% are identified as ELLs. The traditional texts I grew up with did not fit the population I was about to begin teaching. Changes had to be made.

Thankfully, the NCTE Annual Convention opened my world to students I had not previously been able to reach. Without hearing the authors at ALAN speak out about their beliefs and reasons for writing their novels—such as Will Walton’s first novel, Anything Could Happen, all the way to Kadir Nelson—I would have been scrambling to find texts my students could be engaged with.

Whether from a famous author or a struggling writer releasing a first novel, texts where leaps are taken and “touchy” subjects brought forward are more beneficial to my diverse students and, in the long run, affect their lives much more than the traditional texts in my own background. Conferences, such as NCTE, are so important for teachers, especially preservice, to open up their eyes to other approaches and opportunities.

Hailee Halverson is a preservice teacher, currently student teaching, at the University of Northern Iowa.