Tag Archives: teacher preparation

Mrs. Stuart Goes to Washington: Teacher Preparation, Global Education and CA Senators

Is there a better way to kick off the week than by spending time with pre-service teachers?The NCTE team (Jenna Fournel, Lu Ann McNabb and Felice Kaufmann) and I took a field trip to Capital City Public Charter School where Inspired Teaching hosts a summer program. Inspired Teaching is a “professional learning community of master teachers and teacher residents that  ensures that a diverse group of students achieves their potential as accomplished learners, thoughtful citizens, and imaginative and inquisitive problem solvers through a demanding, inquiry-based curriculum.”

Seated in a circle, teachers were doing an exercise that examined the different roles that students tend to play in the classroom, e.g., mean girl, class clown, etc. After the discussion, teachers used chart paper to write down both positives and negatives of each of the roles. Then we divided into teams and brainstormed ways to break students of these roles.I loved the insightfulness of the group, one teacher remarked that students can “go invisible” in some roles. Another pointed out these roles teach students that they as a person are static, and not dynamic. When chatting with Mara Duquette, Senior Manager, Strategic Engagement, she talked about the importance of these experiences- by saying, “We teach them to discover who I am as a learner, because I need to know that before I can become a teacher.” 

NCTE’s Felice Kaufmann and I discuss some of the strategies Inspired Teaching uses with their pre-service teachers. I loved the quotes about education, and I plan to use them as an opening activity to get my students thinking about why they are in school.

Global Education

I had no idea that the US Department of Education had an International Affairs Office. Since I am a Teachers for Global Classrooms Fellow (see P&O below for more details), I was eager to learn more. Maureen McLaughlin, who is a senior advisor to Secretary DeVos and the Director of International Affairs, was gracious enough to meet with me to talk global education. She shared with me the department’s strategy, created under Arne Duncan, to succeed globally through international education and engagement. They have three objectives: increase global competencies, learn from other countries, and engage in education diplomacy. Recently, Maureen was on a team that created a Framework for Developing Global and Cultural Competencies to Advance Equity, Excellence and Economic Competence. This is a great tool for those looking to start embedding global competencies in their curriculum.

This framework is a great way to start thinking about ways to incorporate global education in the classroom.

California Delegation

Midweek I met with both of my California senators’ offices. Small world: Brett Rosenberg, the legislative aide in Senator Kamala Harris’s office, actually received an NCTE Achievement Award in Writing when she was in high school. I shared with Brett NCTE’s policy recommendations, and she shared with me the senator’s education passions (DACA, combating sexual assault on campus, gainful employment). At Senator Dianne Feinstein’s office I met with education legislative aide Crystal Martinez. She anticipates the Senate will preserve Title I funding at equal or increased levels, and that Title II and LEARN will be preserved in some fashion. That was good news! Check out last week’s post for a refresher on ESSA funding. Senator Feinstein’s interests are access to high-quality education for all students, ensuring California receives its due share of federal funding, and accountability and transparency for all schools.

My traditional selfies with the plaques.










I Really Love Global Education

Never felt more secure in my life! I also enjoyed the alumni ribbon, as it got people chatting with me about my experience with Teachers for Global Classrooms.

Friday brought me to the Department of State for the Annual Global Teaching Dialogue to continue my learning on global education. As a Teachers for Global Classrooms Fellow, it was exciting to hear all the phenomenal work that both the TGC and Fulbright Fellows are doing in their schools with global education. Mark Taplin, the acting assistant secretary of state for the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, opened the dialogue, pointing out that investing in teachers is critical to our nation’s future.  Andy Rabens, the special advisor for global youth issues, wrapped up the evening by talking about the three areas of focus for youth issues: youth and economic opportunity (jobs of the future), youth and the political process (getting them involved, young women especially) and youth and violent extremism (understanding how and why youth are vulnerable). There is a great video he did on the Global Youth Issues website which can tell you more about why young people matter. I think I’ll use this video in my classroom to kick off the year to show my kids why they are important.

I don’t know why, but I get a kick out of branded water bottles, especially ones that say Department of State.

If you are interested in learning more about global education, check out the State Department’s programs for teachers and students (spoiler alert, there are a lot), The Diplomacy Center for educating students about diplomacy,  or reach out to me and I can help guide you. Also, follow #NCTEcitizen to join in the conversation on creating global citizens. This recent blog post entitled “Putting Citizenship in Global Perspective in the ELA Classroom” is a great place to get started. Being in DC during a tumultuous time in world news has only strengthened my resolve that if we want our students to be successful in college, career and beyond, it is our responsibility as educators to help them explore how they fit into a global society.

P&O (People and Opportunities) There were a lot this week, so I’ll keep this list to stuff I didn’t mention above.

Celeste Rodriguez, Teacher Liaison, Department of Education: Lu Ann and I had lunch with Celeste. Taco truck lunch, sitting outside, chatting teacher leadership – what more can a gal ask for? Just because there has been a change in administration, it doesn’t mean the department isn’t listening. Celeste is working hard, continuing to incorporate teacher voice at all levels. Big shout out to her and all she does for teachers and students. 

Felice Kaufmann, Publications Developer, NCTE: Felice, based at the NCTE office in Urbana, Illinois, was in DC this week. I was lucky enough to spend time with her and get to know her a bit. You can check out our membership magazine, The Council Chronicle, which Felice manages, and also follow her on Twitter. 

Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute, CHCI: I ran into this group while I was waiting in Senator Harris’s office. I encourage you to check out this program, which “places Latino youth on a new trajectory by inspiring high school and college completion, and then providing programs to explore public policy and leadership in our nation’s capital.” The group of kids I saw were giddy after meeting the senator, and I loved seeing students so inspired by our government.

Teachers for Global Classrooms: This is a great program for teachers to start or continue their global education journey. It consists of a graduate-level 10-week online course on global education, a symposium in DC, and it culminates in a 2-3 week study abroad. I am looking forward to doing my travel piece this spring!


Ah, a New Year: Iowa Report

This post is written by NCTE’s Iowa P12 policy analyst James Davis. 

JimDavis200607 Holding Journal - chestIn November and December, education organizations prepared for a daunting 2017; while not prescient, their work was warranted. Iowa’s November elections had substantial implications for pre-K through higher education, especially for teacher retention and recruitment. Legislative targets include dismantling a collective bargaining law in effect since 1975 (health care, contract arbitration, and job-performance grievance procedures are at risk); limiting fiscal responsibility to the public employee retirement system; teacher licensure and credentialing.

Many educators, including those in teacher preparation, see the last-mentioned–an attack on teacher licensure and credentialing–as something that could lead to lower quality staffing (including the possibility of long-term substitutes), and ultimately, to privatization of schools. Budget shortfalls, even with the existence of a robust “rainy day fund,” are the handy rationale. As Iowa and surrounding states face teacher shortages, making the profession less desirable hardly seems a logical strategy.

The same budget rationale affects other matters, including “initiatives once touted as ways to better Iowa schools” (DMR 1/17/17). A controversial third-grade retention law is to take effect in 2018, but the Iowa Department of Education has not requested funding for the intensive summer-reading program alternative specified in the statute. Educators have questioned the efficacy of the approach, which could be pushed back (likely), seriously reconsidered, and perhaps repealed. A second initiative was to replace the Iowa Assessment Program with Smarter Balanced Assessments in the 2017-18 school year. Legislators question availability of funding for the computer-based exams, even as some lawmakers and educators question the way the Smarter Balanced program was selected. Despite alleged commitment to alignment between Iowa Core standards and state assessment, the program seems to be in jeopardy—the Governor has asked the Department to put a hold on implementation, and has requested fewer state budget provisions for a start in fiscal year 2019 than the Department had requested for 2018.

On a less gloomy note, implementation continues for support of teacher leaders and leadership. Social Studies standards are near implementation. Many teachers maintain professional grounding in the presence of an Iowa Core. Good work continues in schools and classrooms, even with the legislature in session!

One change will occur when the current Iowa Governor begins service as the US Ambassador to China. The current Lieutenant Governor will become the first woman Governor in Iowa history. Educators struggle to find reason to believe it will make any difference.

Jim Davis began teaching in southwest Missouri as an NCTE and affiliate member, attending his first annual convention in Milwaukee in 1968. Now in his 50th year in our profession, he teaches English education and directs the Iowa Writing Project at the University of Northern Iowa.

Preparing Tomorrow’s Teachers

iStock_000007829849_XXXLargeHow well do we prepare new teachers for the profession? This has long been a concern of NCTE. In 1968, our Conference on English Education published Sister M. Philippa Coogan’s paper “The Well-Prepared Student Teacher.” In it, she lays out concerns about teacher training that may be just as relevant today.

While preservice teachers frequently cite student teaching as the most valuable part of their preparation program, Coogan finds shortcomings with the student teaching experience:

[T]hese experiences are really not as fruitful as we would like them to be, and for a variety of reasons. Let me recall to you just a few: a scarcity of outstanding teachers willing to sacrifice their own time and the time of their class to the training of practice teachers; the exigencies of the individual classroom situation, which demand that a particular set of operations be performed at a particular time, regardless of whether or not the student teacher will benefit from the experience; limitation of student teaching to a particular school which may serve an entirely different kind of student than the school to which the young teacher will ultimately be assigned; the impossibility of the supervising teacher’s keeping in close touch with all the teaching situations in which his student teachers are involved; and therefore his inability to guide them adequately in identifying good and desirable teaching experiences.

More valuable might be the methods class. Coogan writes:

The teacher of this course, well aware of the diversity of operations in which his student teachers are engaged or will be engaged, well aware of their urgent need for help, of the complexity of each separate teaching situation, is apt to violate all the principles of pedagogy to which he subscribes in order to give them immediate assistance. He lectures about the ineffectiveness of the lecture method, for instance; he generalizes about the importance of the particularizing or inductive approach; he pontificates about the desirability of learning by discovery.

How can teacher preparation be improved? Coogan offers a few thoughts. She argues teacher preparation should focus more on teaching future teachers about “the learning process rather than the teaching process” because the beginning teacher “is apt to be more concerned with putting on a virtuoso performance than with what actually happens between the ears of his students.” She also writes:

I should like to see most of the [methods] class sessions devoted to controlled observation of widely different teaching situations, different as to the kinds of skill and insight that are being developed, different as to the kinds of students being reached, different as to the kinds of teachers serving as catalysts in the learning situation. Since every member of the class will then have observed the same demonstration, they will be able to explore together the principles of psychology and pedagogy involved, with great economy of time and considerable sharpening of focus.

Read Sr. Coogan’s entire paper “The Well-Prepared Student Teacher.”

Supporting New Teachers: A Plea to Administrators

There are things we can all do to support the “energy, fragility, knowledge, and drive that new teachers bring to the teaching profession.” In “How Can You Help?” from Tensions & Triumphs in the Early Years of Teaching (NCTE, 2006), the authors offer their “two cents” of advice on what they have come to believe are the best ways to support new teachers. The suggestions here are among those they offer to Administrators:

Make time for regular professional study and conversation a priority.

blog-TensionsTriumphs-groupshot-webTo bring our beliefs to life and continue to grow, we need time for collegial conversation that will help us consider ideas from professional literature and our preservice experiences in the context of our new settings.

We need support in evaluating programs and practices so that we can teach within and beyond existing systems without selling out.

Simply put, we need time for talk, opportunities to build “critical and longstanding relationships” (Nieto, 2003, p. 78) with our colleagues as we work to define and redefine ourselves as educators. . . .

Not only do we need time for professional conversation, but we also need time and support for experiences that will promote productive talk.

Make it possible for us and our experienced colleagues to visit exemplary schools, view professional videotapes, and read professional literature. Provide financial resources to pay for books and trips to national conferences. Build in plenty of time for reflection about implications for our classrooms. Think beyond typical structures to consider creative uses of time in your schools. . . .

Create an atmosphere in which it is safe to take risks.  

pg12Carmen-and-kids_webIn many of our situations, it was not customary for teachers to risk exposing vulnerabilities about their own teaching. The prevailing feeling seemed to be that teachers should already be there. As a result, some of us experienced an enormous barrier to sustaining and building on our visions of great teaching: We did not feel safe enough to risk examining our own practices—to trust that we could try and fail and try again.

Administrators, your leadership is key to creating an atmosphere that encourages risk-taking. In such an environment, teachers are delighted at the sound of the principal’s footsteps coming down the hall. It means that one more interested teacher-learner is about to join us and our students.

In such an atmosphere, testing issues are put in perspective, and teachers work to address those issues without feeling pressured or humiliated by the public announcement and reification of scores.

In a risk-taking environment, there is room for talk as teachers share data from children’s work, read professionally, try new ideas, and then read and try again. A risk-taking environment is one that reveres teachers as experimenters, thinkers, and learners, allowing us to build knowledge so that we can make better instructional decisions for ourselves.

Join us as co-learners. . . . 

When you participate fully as learners, you provide important demonstrations about what it means to be an educator who can’t stop learning. . . .

Read and discuss professional literature with us. Jump in and get involved regularly in our classrooms. Take risks with us to try out new ideas with our students. Show a genuine interest in ideas they are pursuing or books they are reading. Engage us the same way.

Become a part of and contribute to the exciting buzz of children and teachers learning with one another.

We will welcome you as a colearner. We will look forward to your presence in our classrooms and professional study groups as we teach, reflect, revise, wonder, and learn together. . . .

Epilogue-beach-photocropRT-300web This text is excerpted from Tensions & Triumphs in the Early Years of Teaching: Real-World Findings and Advice for Supporting New Teachers (NCTE, 2006), by Susi Long, Ami Abramson, April Boone, Carly Borchelt, Robbie Kalish, Erin Miller, Julie Parks, and Carmen Tisdale.

Grounding Our Teaching in Research

When we ground ourselves in the research of teaching our practice begins to grow.The following excerpts come from an article entitled Grounding Our Teaching in Research: Implications from Research in the Teaching of English, 2009–12 in the July issue of English Journal. The article was written by Jessica A. West and Cheri Williams and features their synthesis of the findings of research published in RTE between 2009 and 2012 to support the professional development of preservice and inservice English educators.

The best teachers never stop being students themselves and, in particular, they are students of their field. Knowing the field of English education is essential to being a strong English educator. We cannot hope to transform the discipline without considering what we presently know, and do not yet know, about the teaching and learning of the English language arts…

As part of our efforts to support the professional development of preservice and inservice English educators, we recently examined current research published in RTE. Our goal was to synthesize the findings of that research to help practitioners develop a clearer “reading” of the current state of the field, which could inform their pedagogy and practice…

We organized the major findings into five categories that reflected the most commonly examined topics: identity, writing pedagogy, new literacies, English language learners, and the teaching of literature.

(These are some of the findings West and Williams explore in each topic. Click on the author links to read the full articles that informed these findings. You will need to use your NCTE member login.)

  • Identity: Classroom literacy activities can engage students in reflection related to their social and cultural position and identity in the world and foster compassion for peers’ unique experiences (Camangian; Wilson and Boatright; Wissman).
  • Writing Pedagogy: The ways in which high school students’ talk about model essays that are used to prepare for high-stakes testing takes on a performative function as the students discuss aspects of the essays that they consider to be most important given the ideological context, and that these comments were often clichés. This finding suggests that teachers need to more consciously look at the use of language in writing instruction and not assume that students hold a shared vocabulary for talking about writing (Samuelson).
  • New Literacies: [Participants in social media are using] multimodal composition forms, such as social networking sites, fan-based sites, video production, and Instant Messenger (IM), to create nontraditional compositions to represent ideas in ways not possible with traditional print-based compositions (Black; Bruce; Buck; Haas and Takayoshi; Roozen).
  • English Language Learners: Knowledge of ELL writers’ extra-textual identities, informed by watching a short video of the writer, affected raters’ assessment of their writing, suggesting that knowledge of and interactions with students are likely powerful influences on classroom teachers’ assessments of students’ voice in their writing (Tardy).
  • The Teaching of Literature: Eurocentric and Anglo-centric literature and texts of US origin dominated the curriculums of both US and Canadian schools and did not equally represent the historical and contemporary backgrounds of the students in the schools (Skerrett).

To be strong English educators, we must be engaged in continuous improvement of our craft. Good teaching is dynamic, as is our profession, and we are responsible for staying abreast of current developments in our field. Being aware of current research findings, such as those presented in this article, and the implications of those findings for one’s pedagogy and practice is essential to learning to teach well and to meeting the needs of our students.