Monthly Archives: November 2015

Reflections on My Teacher Education Program

I (Clare) am currently teaching a graduate course Current Issues in Teacher Education. The first assignment asks students to:

Write a reflection paper on your experiences in a professional program (teacher education, Teaching English as a Second Language ….). Provide a very brief description of the program. Some questions to consider are: What were the strengths/weaknesses of the program? How well did the program prepare you to assume the duties of a teacher? What were the limitations of the program? Have your views of the program changed since graduation? How could the program have been improved? Did the program prepare you to assume the duties of a teacher (or other position)? Do NOT respond to all of these questions. Select one or two and respond to them. In the fourth class of the course, you will work in small groups and share your paper with your fellow students.

Since all of the students in the course are teachers they have a good perspective on their program. Their assignments were so stellar I felt these would be of great value to share with other teacher educators. Over the next few weeks I will be sharing these papers. I learned much and I suspect you will too. I have changed the name of the university so that no school of education is identified.

Making Connections

When deciding where to apply for my teacher education program I only knew two things; I wanted to fix what I thought was wrong with schools and I wanted a concurrent program. I had awful and awesome experiences in both elementary and secondary school and could not fully explain why, but I wanted to. I also knew that my timid nature would benefit from the extra practicum hours and practice present in a concurrent program. This narrowed my view to XXX University, YYY University, and ZZZ University. Amazingly, I had my pick so I turned to my teacher friends to help me make my decision. It honestly came down to a conversation I had with a friend in which she said, “If you want to learn the theories that drive education go to YYY and if you want to learn how to be a teacher, go to ZZZ.” On this conversation alone I decided on YYY because my interest was in educational reform and my mind was far from thinking about the necessity of knowing how to be a teacher.

The program was a one year teacher’s ed program taken part time concurrently with my undergrad program for 3 years. My first year of undergrad and one other year of my choice was to be entirely devoted to undergraduate studies. There were two mandatory courses for all teacher candidates in the first year of the program, Inquiries into Schooling and Inquiries into Learning. There was also a panel specific course. Being in the secondary panel I was required to take The Adolescent and The Teacher, a psychology course about child development from birth to adolescence. Each year of the teaching program there was a year long practicum. The first year is a community education placement that focuses on an education initiative in a community. As an example, in my first year, I collected children from three different elementary schools in the queen west area of Toronto, took them to a bookstore and ran an afterschool literacy program that included reading buddy time between the younger and older students. This year is ended by a one week observation block in a school. The following two years are in school placements that are one day a week for the university’s academic calendar and followed by one month practical block after exams are finished. With the practicums there is a non-credit, once a month class that is aimed at unpacking the experiences in the practicums and gives strategies to help student teachers be successful. They were either held on campus, at the practicum schools, or at a school nearby (I had one of each of these arrangements).

The strengths of the program rest on the amount of time you spend in schools. I found I was very comfortable with school routines and the students by the time I was asked to take over the class in May. It would have been helpful to start the year off with an observation block so student teachers get to know the students and routines very quickly rather than the month or longer that it takes only going once a week. Once you get to know those routines and the students though, the practicum becomes part of your regular week and that is very helpful. It is still one of the better practicum programs in my opinion. There was one professor I had as well who was truly inspiring and a real mentor to me. She truly embodied a constructivist approach as well as knowing her students as a pedagogical tool. She saw how even in my first year of teacher’s college I was highly critical of our education system and showed me how to connect my personal experiences to theories of reform that already existed in education. Her strengths in this area, however, exposed that this was a weakness in the program overall.

Though I had one amazing professor who profoundly affected me as a learner and educator, I cannot say the same for any of my other professors. This leads me into one of the three biggest weaknesses of YYY’s Education program. Through my time in the concurrent system I was the student of 12 different teacher educators. Many of these professors fell into two types. There were many professors who were so well versed in the research and theories of education that they could not make the material accessible to us. Either from a lack of practical or phronetic experience in the classroom, or from the material being too advanced too early, the professors did not have an impact on us. The difficult theoretical readings paired with what seemed to be easy and meaningless reflective papers meant that the courses did not seem appropriate or purposeful. The other problematic teaching style was that of the teacher model. This is where the professor assumes the role of elementary or secondary teacher and treats the student teachers as children and rarely as professionals. The purpose is explicit – to model classroom strategies- but the tone is condescending. These courses also had challenging theoretical readings but they were rarely discussed in class and so the learning from them was left to the individual learning and their ability to access that learning on their own.

Struggling with these professors and the material further highlights another weakness in the program: a lack of a unifying goal. I went into teachers college already knowing that there was a distinct difficulty in education of a defined goal of public education. Before entering university I understood that there was problem with our education system that promoted or at least maintained class distinctions. I could see that the end goal of school varied depending on which economic class the child belonged to (not in theory of course, but in practice). As a new student teacher it only took one or two get-to-know you activities in my classes to understand that we all had different ideas on what the end goal of school should be. Is it to maintain social order, prepare students for jobs, create independent and creative thinkers? It was plain to see that we all had different ideas about what we were really learning to do. What wasn’t plain to see was what the university thought the end goal of public education should be. There was no conversations around it, there were no chances for us to explore our own ideas and have them challenged. There were just professors, with their own ideas, teaching conflicting ideas to young student teachers that didn’t have enough concrete experience with which to ground the multiple theories in. The result was disjointed classes that all used the same philosophers and experts in education to argue different pedagogical approaches to subjects and students. The two different types of professors further show that they didn’t even agree on the end goal of our university experience; one type embodying the academic theory based pedagogical approach, and the other, a concrete and practitioner based approach. Though I think a combination of some sort could be the most beneficial for student teachers, it needs to be far more intentional and clear so that student teachers have a better sense of what they are supposed to be learning. The distinction between the two types of professors was so obvious and opposing that on several occasions I heard other classes and unnamed professors spoken ill of. Only upon later reflection have I realized how this problem I witnessed in my elementary and secondary education was also present in my teacher’s education program.

The final weakness of the YYY program that I will explore, and have already hinted at, is the idea that we had very little control over our own learning. The very thing that drove me to become an educator, what I am the most passionate to learn about, has rarely been addressed. The mandatory courses we were forced to take were problematic in that they were too general, the material was complex, and we didn’t have enough experience to understand the theories. The elective courses were much more specific but often did not take into account the realities of public education (Ie. a technology in education class that will be out of date by the time the school I’m teaching in sees half the technology we were using). Furthermore, there wasn’t an elective course that had anything to do with what I wanted to learn about. There was only one opportunity, my first year of the teacher’s program and my second year in my undergrad where I got to explore a topic that was a key factor in my decision to become a teacher. In that year, our observation and community placement year, we were assigned a community mapping project in which we also had to research and devise a thesis on how education in that community was affected by a particular factor outside the actual school. I mapped my rural hometown and wrote about how the class divide in the community leads to a class divide in the school that is not addressed and causes many of the problems I witnessed when growing up there. I was passionate about the topic, the professor helped my find academic papers that addressed the issues I was writing on, and we talked about our projects in class as we developed them. I learned more in that project than I did in the entirety of my other classes put together because I was in control, I knew the purpose, I was connected to the content with experience and interest, and I was supported in that. In most of my other courses I felt like my voice and opinions were dismissed or there was no space for my thinking. The reflections we did were not enough for me as I am sure they were not enough for many of my peers. I had already done so much reflecting which is what led me to choose teaching as my profession, I wanted more meaningful learning experiences that addressed my individuality as a student teacher.

Though my experience was largely negative, the one professor I had, and the one project that was meaningful had a huge impact on my career as a teacher. It validated my personal perspective on education and when I presented my project (early because I was so interested I finished it months in advance) my professor told me that I should do my masters one day and further explore that topic. I had never considered myself a candidate for anything beyond university (being the first in my family to attend a university) but I ended up pursuing that path based on her acknowledgement of my academic skill and the hope that I could further study the topics that I was interested in.

Ultimately, I feel teacher’s education programs have the reputation that they deserve but that it embodies something that is a much larger problem. In my personal opinion, education is so desperately in need of radical reform to deal with the systematic and institutional problems that studying and reforming on aspects of it, and that includes teacher education programs will only go so far. Until we really take a look at the system as a whole and create a cohesive goal only minor gains will be made.

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10 Things Grateful People Do Differently

I (Clare) found this article very interesting and thought I would share it with you. From the Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/habits-of-grateful-people_565352a6e4b0d4093a588538

More gratitude = Better life.

Lindsay Holmes Healthy Living Editor, The Huffington Post

Posted: 11/26/2015 08:39 AM EST

GirlswithBalloonsRalph Waldo Emerson once said that in order to achieve contentment, one should “cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously.”

Turns out Emerson — who explored the meaning of a good life in much of his work — wasn’t far off when it comes to what we now know about counting our blessings. Research is continually finding that expressing thanks can lead to a healthier, happier and less-stressed lifestyle.

“Life is a series of problems that have to be solved — and a lot of times those problems cause stress,” Robert Emmons, a gratitude researcher and psychology professor at the University of California, Davis, told The Huffington Post. “Gratitude can be that stress buster.”

The way we celebrate holidays often includes a rhetoric of adopting an attitude of gratitude — but what about after the leftovers and family china have been put away? How do we, as Emerson advised, be thankful for each thing that contributes to our lives?

Below find 10 habits that will help you cultivate gratitude on a regular basis.

  1. Journal.

Research has shown that writing down what you’re thankful for can lead to a multitude of wellness benefits. Keeping a gratitude journal can reinforce positive thoughts — something particularly helpful as the brain tends to naturally focus on what goes wrong. Putting pen to paper can also help you make more progress as you work toward personal goals.

In order to reap the full benefits of journaling, Emmons recommends writing for five to 10 minutes every other day. “You really need to commit to doing it, and if you write it down eventually it will become more automatic,” Emmons says. “It’s like exercise — you’re not just going to get up one morning and go running, you need to have a plan. You need to have a gratitude action plan, whether it’s waking up and writing in the morning or in the evening before you go to sleep — no one size best fits all.”

  1. Don’t avoid the negative.

Expressing gratitude may generate more optimism, but thankful people also don’t shy away from the negative. Emmons says that while we often associate gratitude with focusing on the good and avoiding the bad, the key to leading a thankful life is embracing setbacks as part of your overall journey. Emmons suggests recalling a hard time you once experienced — chances are, you’ll start to feel grateful for your current state and overcoming former challenges.

  1. Spend time with loved ones…

Thankful people know they didn’t get to where they are by themselves — and they make it a habit to spend time with those people who matter most. “Gratitude really helps us connect to other people,” Emmons says. “It actually strengthens relationships and relationships are the strongest predictors of happiness and coping with stress.”

  1. …And tell them you love them.

Expressing appreciation for loved ones can also help create a closeness by allowing others to see how you look at them. “More than other emotion, gratitude is the emotion of friendship,” Michael E. McCullough, a University of Miami researcher, told the New York Times in 2011. “It is part of a psychological system that causes people to raise their estimates of how much value they hold in the eyes of another person.”

And stating how much you appreciate your loved ones pays off. A recent study published in the journal Personal Relationships found that couples who expressed gratitude in their relationship had better marriages. Higher levels of thankfulness in the relationship also seemed to reduce men and women’s likelihood of divorce.

  1. Use social media mindfully.

In our plugged-in culture, it’s impossible to avoid social media altogether. However, Emmons says, thankful people mindfully take advantage of these networks. “[Thankful people] use whatever cues that exist in everyday environments to trigger grateful thoughts,” he says. “Pictures and information on social media — that’s a very good way to do it.”

Research has found that positive thoughts shared on social media spread faster than than negative — something that makes the gratitude process a lot easier when turning to the Internet. Emmons suggests assembling an archive of postings on Facebook and Instagram to pull from when you need a reminder to be grateful. This method will help you cue happy memories through pages that you normally visit on a daily basis. “Technology and devices are criticized because you’re less connected, but if used correctly I think it can be the opposite,” Emmons said.

  1. Know the value of the little things…

There’s power in the small, ordinary moments, like catching the subway before the doors close or your pet greeting your happily when you get home. Looking for a few things to add to your gratitude list? Here are 100.

  1. …Then help others appreciate them, too.

Small acts of kindness make a difference in a big way when it comes to cultivating gratitude. Thankful people make it a habit to acknowledge and pay forward each bit of kindness that comes their way, whether it’s a simple compliment, help on a task or getting flowers “just because.” Research shows this type of kindness makes both you and the other person happier.

  1. Volunteer.

Everyone needs a little help sometimes — and grateful people know there’s no other way to acknowledge this than by actively doing something about it. In his book Thanks!, Emmons notes that those who volunteer often feel grateful for the experience to give back. “Since service to others helped them to find their own inner spirituality, they were grateful for the opportunity to serve,” he wrote.

As research published in BMC Public Health points out, volunteering can result in lower feelings of depression and increased overall well-being. Emmons suggests examining your own talents and using them to help others, noting that people become more grateful as givers rather than receivers.

  1. Get moving.

They may not seem similar, but gratitude and fitness can go hand-in-hand. According to Emmons’s 2003 study, people who practiced gratitude also engaged in more exercise. The results also found that study participants had fewer dietary restrictions and were less likely to smoke or abuse alcohol.

Exercising has been proven to clear your mind and reduce stress, all key components in setting yourself up for gratitude. Thankful people who move their feet experience an overall healthier mind and body, therefore making gratitude one of the best medicines, Emmons says.

  1. Love yourself.

Grateful people know that their thankful attitude can also fuel self-compassion. A study published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences found that higher levels of gratitude were associated with greater self-esteem. And it’s no wonder: When your well-being is a priority, you can’t help but feel great.

Thankful for being the person that you are? That should be at the top of your gratitude list.

What Children Hear

grew some

This charming cartoon reminded me (Cathy) of an incident I had as a young child.  My family was staying at a cottage of friends’ located on the shores of James Bay.  One evening we all sat by a large camp fire on the beach.  As the children roasted marshmallows, the parents chatted.  I happened to hear the grown ups  mention “fairy.” Puzzled I listened more intently.  “Oh, she’s grand to see, really.  She turns around right over there, off the end of our dock.”  My parents’ friend pointed out over the dark water.  I looked at my dad.  He was listening  and nodding.  No smile.  “Really?”  asked my mother.  “I’m surprised she’d come so close to shore.”  “Yeah, so were we,” said the friend.   “We’ve seen her a few times now.   All lit up, reflecting in the water.  Quite a sight really.  Maybe you’ll see her.”

I remember holding very still and being slightly afraid.  I was sure they had told me fairies weren’t real…  yet here they were discussing “her” like they would talk about dinner or the car.

I watched for “her” but never saw those wonderful lights.  Perhaps just as well.  It gave me a couple more years of believing in the impossible.

Reflections on a Teacher Education Program with a First Nations Focus

I (Clare) am currently teaching a graduate course Current Issues in Teacher Education. The first assignment asks students to:

Write a reflection paper on your experiences in a professional program (teacher education, Teaching English as a Second Language ….). Provide a very brief description of the program. Some questions to consider are: What were the strengths/weaknesses of the program? How well did the program prepare you to assume the duties of a teacher? What were the limitations of the program? Have your views of the program changed since graduation? How could the program have been improved? Did the program prepare you to assume the duties of a teacher (or other position)? Do NOT respond to all of these questions. Select one or two and respond to them. In the fourth class of the course, you will work in small groups and share your paper with your fellow students.

Since all of the students in the course are teachers they have a good perspective on their program. Their assignments were so stellar I felt these would be of great value to share with other teacher educators. Over the next few weeks I will be sharing these papers. I learned much and I suspect you will too. I have changed the name of the university so that no school of education is identified.

My teacher education program was at University XXX, where I was part of the primary/junior cohort (K-grade 6) cohort in the year of 2013-2014. The cohort had a First Nations focus. There were about sixty students from various places, with vast variety of experiences, knowledge, interests and skills. My teacher education program consisted of many strengths and areas of improvement. Due to the areas of improvement, I feel that my teacher education program could have prepared me better.

During my teacher education program at University XXX, I had witnessed many strengths and weaknesses of the program. I will start off by addressing the strengths and then the weaknesses. To begin with, coming to class at XXX everyday was the highlight of my day, as the program culture was very supportive, caring and one that respected diversity. I found all my professors to be extremely genuine and caring, as they treated every single student teacher as a whole (emotionally, physically and mentally). The student teachers in my class were a pleasure to learn with, as we provided one another with assistance with course assignments, we had lunches together in big groups, and we also made time to socialize after class by going to a near by pub. A quote from the article titled Teacher Education at the University of Virginia: A Study of English and Mathematics, that resonated with my experience at XXX, “There, she says, professors worked to create a strong, caring community that respected diversity…. being a part of a strong, supportive community was a key experience” (Merseth & Koppich, p.75). This quotation resonated with my experience at XXX, as I felt part of a community of educators who learned together by supporting one another. However, half way through the program, many students started getting in arguments with one another and complaining how they were not getting a lot out of their teacher education program. My cohort coordinators dealt with the situation in a very positive manner. My coordinators split the class in half, and we had a community circle where a talking stick was used, and everyone had the opportunity to say what was on their mind. Soon enough, the conflict was resolved and strategies were put in place for improvements. In addition to this, another strength of my teacher education program was during my practicum experience at YYY Public School in a grade 4 classroom. One and a half weeks in to my practicum, my associate teacher had been going through a great deal of back pain, to a point where she had to take a couple weeks off and had back surgery. I was in her classroom with a Long Term Occasion (LTO) teacher (supply/substitute teacher), whom I did not get along with as she did not let me teach a single lesson. I gave the LTO teacher a couple of days to settle in, in the hopes of her providing me with a chance to teach my lessons that I had prepared. I felt like a volunteer in her class, and the way she dealt with the students did not fit my teaching philosophy. I remember coming home and crying and making a connection of my experience with the LTO teacher to the song ‘Wrecking Ball’ by Miley Cyrus. Although I did have three other student teachers from my class at the same practicum school, I felt like I needed more support. I contacted my practicum coordinator and expressed my concerns with the LTO teacher. My practicum coordinator was very helpful and quick in dealing with the situation, as she had arrived at my practicum school the very next day, and had my placement changed with another associate teacher in the school. I was very impressed with the quick change.

 

Although my teacher education program had many strengths, through a critical lens, I found there to be a couple of weaknesses/areas of improvement in the program. To begin with, there were sixty student teachers in the class; I feel that class sizes should be smaller; about thirty to forty students maximum. Small class sizes allow for a lot more individual attention, and more critical questioning. Although my cohort had a First Nations focus, I felt that there was not enough infusion. Although we used a talking stick and were exposed to and provided with a certain level of knowledge, we were not provided with First Nation resources such as books, videos or lesson plans to use in class. I would have liked to receive a ‘First Nations Resource Tool Kit’ that had a package of important rituals, resources and activities to do with the students as a starting guide to educating students about First Nations. In addition to this, I did not gain much knowledge from one of my foundations courses. My professor was not an effective educator on this particular subject. I am not even sure up to this date, what I was suppose to learn from that class. My professor was of First Nation descent, which I really valued because I gained an immense amount of knowledge regarding First Nations, however I did not gain an efficient amount of knowledge dealing with the subject I was suppose to be taught. A quote that resonates with this experience is from the article titled How Teachers Learn and Develop, Teachers are even more important than the material they use because the ways in which they present material highly influence how they are viewed by students” (Hammerness, Darling-Hammond, Bransford, et al. p. 384). Another weakness I found in the program was not enough class time; especially in math seeing as how numeracy is really big within school boards and it is the number one subject students struggle with. I found my math class to be very engaging as we had our ‘math tool kit’ that included a variety of manipulatives, however the learning was rush and clustered together due to time constraints.

My teacher education program could have prepared me to fulfill my duties as a teacher more effectively. My teacher education program did not introduce us to the report card system, how to provide students with final grades or about the types of comments one should include in report cards. In addition it would have been beneficial for student teachers to know about specific buzzwords and interview questions that could be asked during school interviews. I would have felt better prepared if my teacher education program provided us assistance and guidance with job search. However, due to the competitive teaching market, my teacher education could have provided us with suggestions of what else we can do with our degree, other than just teaching in a classroom. I also believe that the program could have prepared me better by making the teacher education program for 2-3 years, instead of 1 year. A longer teacher education program would be able to provide students with more practicum experiences, critical thinking, learner- centered teaching, community based activities among diverse groups, and an increased and effective amount of content knowledge that covers all core subject areas. An example of an effective teacher education program is the Curry School of Education, which is a 5 year BA/MT program in Virginia. As stated in the article, by the end of this program “Somebody who comes out of the Curry School is going to be able to walk into a classroom prepared for almost anything. They’ll be knowledgeable in the subject area, knowledgeable in a variety of strategies of teaching methods, of classroom procedures and discipline” ( Merseth & Koppich, p. 64). This is the type of framework and actions that University XXX needs to implement for a more effective and improved teacher education program.

 

This reflection paper has really provided me with some in-depth insight about my teacher education program. From an overall stance, I had only considered the strengths for the program. Through this paper, I was able to critically assess my teacher education program and what could be done to improve the program for future student teachers.

Some questions that still arise about teacher education programs are: When choosing placements for students, I am aware that the University has relationships among specific schools and teachers that have acted as associate teachers in prior years. Is the health and well being of those associate teachers checked each year? Or are student teachers just paired up with those teachers, because that particular teacher was used in the past? Another question I still have is, when preparing and improving teacher education programs, who has the say and input of what should be improved? How is this determined? Do student teachers have a voice in this? Are their opinions and advice considered for improvements of the teacher education program?

 

 

 

Works Cited

Darling-Hammond.L. (Ed). (2000). Studies of excellence in Teacher Education: Preparation in a five year program. New York: AACTE Publishers. ISBN NO: 0-9654535-5-3

 

Darling-Hammond, L. & Bransford, J. (Eds.) (2005). Preparing Teachers for a Changing World: What Teachers Should Learn and Be Able to Do. Jossey Bass.

Upcoming Book Release: Courageous Leadership in Early Childhood Education: Taking a Stand for Social Justice

I am excited for a new book edited by scholars Vivian Vasquez, Mariana Souto-Manning, and Susi Long. The book focuses on social justice practices in the context of pre-school and elementary schools.

51aoKndPxSL._SX338_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

The book gives voice to educators, family members, and school administrators, offering several insights on social justice in early year classrooms, including:

* Highlights the actions of administrators as they take a stand to transcend standardized approaches to teaching and learning, creating more equitable educational environments.

* Portrays strategies and resources used to engage teachers in critical examination of self and the institutions in which they work.

* Describes principles and practices that guide administrators as they support the development of culturally relevant practices and policies.

* Offers powerful ways early childhood administrators can approach inequitable mandates. (http://www.amazon.com/Courageous-Leadership-Early-Childhood-Education/dp/0807757411)

The book will be released in the end of December/early January!

 

 

Reflections on a Concurrent Teacher Education Program

I (Clare) am currently teaching a graduate course Current Issues in Teacher Education. The first assignment asks students to:

Write a reflection paper on your experiences in a professional program (teacher education, Teaching English as a Second Language ….). Provide a very brief description of the program. Some questions to consider are: What were the strengths/weaknesses of the program? How well did the program prepare you to assume the duties of a teacher? What were the limitations of the program? Have your views of the program changed since graduation? How could the program have been improved? Did the program prepare you to assume the duties of a teacher (or other position)? Do NOT respond to all of these questions. Select one or two and respond to them. In the fourth class of the course, you will work in small groups and share your paper with your fellow students.

Since all of the students in the course are teachers they have a good perspective on their program. Their assignments were so stellar I felt these would be of great value to share with other teacher educators. Over the next few weeks I will be sharing these papers. I learned much and I suspect you will too. I have changed the name of the university so that no school of education is identified.

 

Concurrent Education: Eat Sleep Teach Repeat

 

conversation
Repeat, repeat, repeat!

“Teaching is not a lost art but the regard for it is a lost tradition.

Hence tomorrow’s problem will not be to get teachers,

but to recognize the good ones and not discourage them

before they have done their stint.”

—Jacques Barzun

 

In the epigraph above, Jacques Barzun refers to the lack of well-trained teachers and society’s failure to support the good ones. A simple observation of our educational system today highlights the shortcomings of teacher education programs and people’s lost faith in the teaching profession. This paper presents my teacher education program, its strengths and weaknesses, and whether it prepared me to become a teacher. Do not be surprised, but I am discouraged.

As a child, I wanted to be either an entomologist or a teacher. As a teenager, I developed a fear of insects and a love for history. When I was 18 years old, I had officially been admitted to the Concurrent Teacher Education Program (CTEP) at the XXX. The CTEP program allows students to pursue two degrees (HBA/HBSc and BEd) simultaneously over the course of 5 years. Students are required to take education courses that provide them with a foundation for teaching before taking any BEd courses. They include topics such as conflict resolution, equity and diversity, and child and adolescent development.

The program prides itself in providing various opportunities for experiential learning, which include a 100-150 hour anchor subject internship, classroom visits and observations. The internship, considered part of the undergraduate degree and completed before any practicums, is intended to help teacher candidates develop teaching experience in their main area of study. Students participate in organizing extra-curricular activities, providing support, and working with a variety of teachers to deepen their knowledge of the teaching profession. Finally, candidates maintain an e-portfolio to help them track their learning as they progress through the program by encouraging reflection and promoting professional development.

Whenever I mention my program of study, I am told, “You do not have to worry about getting into teacher’s college in 4 years. It’s getting competitive and many people apply because they have nothing else to do.” This highlights one of the strengths of the program. There was a huge sense of relief and security in knowing that excelling in my courses and maintaining my professionalism meant that my dream of becoming a teacher was within reach and in my control. Candidates often saw themselves as part of the ‘lucky few’, but it definitely came at a cost. For example, the intermediate-senior program was only open to students majoring in chemistry, mathematics, or French (based on the needs of schools in Ontario). As a result, I ended up majoring in French Teaching and Learning when I may have enjoyed fields such as management.

Concurrent education was a commitment, which can be seen as both a strength and a weakness. The stipulation for entry also dictated what I studied for five years, which sometimes made my courses feel like a means to an end. It also meant sacrificing many of my undergraduate electives for education courses. The biggest assumption people made was, “It’s okay. You want to be a teacher. What’s the big deal?” The problem was that 18-year-old concurrent students were perceived as 100% set on becoming teachers, thereby ignoring the fact that, like most other first years, we were curious, had various interests, but were somewhat limiting ourselves because of the light at the end of the tunnel.

On the other hand, the socialization into the profession began almost immediately after the first few weeks of our classes. The many hours I poured into classroom observations, reflection papers, and inquiry before even stepping foot into YYY University was a test of my commitment. Exposure to various aspects of the teaching profession over a longer period of time allowed me to make more informed judgments. Some of my colleagues fell in love while others wanted to break up. There was no better way to realize my like or dislike for teaching without immersing myself in it. CTEP was all about immersion.

In addition to the analysis of commitment above, examining course structure and the social impact of the program shed light on its effectiveness. I am thankful that my courses allowed me to experience different grade levels before deciding on the Secondary School stream. By the end of my 3rd year, I had spent time with every age group and knew that Secondary was the right fit for me before beginning any official teacher training courses. These courses have contributed immensely to my teaching philosophy and my development as a practitioner. However, when comparing my undergraduate education to the BEd courses, I realized that the material had become repetitive. With the exception of my Curriculum Instruction courses, many of us saw little value in the teacher training courses because we had covered the same topics over the past 3 years. CTEP saw us as the most knowledgeable and immersed practitioners, when in reality, we were experiencing fatigue, feeling disengaged, and ruing the missed opportunities. Furthermore, the lengthy anchor subject practicum took place in my 4th year, thus leaving a significant gap between its completion and my graduation date. Thankfully, this has since been remedied and students now complete both practicums in their 5th year.

Finally, it is important to consider the impact CTEP has had on my interpersonal relations. I have developed many friendships with my colleagues over the period of 5 years. We became a close-knit community that struggled and celebrated together while sharing countless experiences and horror stories, all of which made CTEP very enjoyable. However, I did feel isolated from my university community because we were required to attend courses at the downtown campus for an entire semester in 4th year. After months away from my home campus, it was back to ‘normal’. The main difference was that I now felt like a teacher, having completed 80% of my teacher training, but was once again a student taking an undergraduate course. Not surprisingly, this has now been remedied since it hindered professional development and students now attend XXX University full time in their 5th year. I was a guinea pig, and after all of it, I am discouraged.

The program prepared me to be a teacher the same way military education prepares a soldier for the battlefield. It is a simulated experience, rich in theory and strategies, but devoid of the reality. Before we can consider admitting that teacher education programs are preparing us to assume the duties of a teacher, we are in need of great reform and rebuilding, from the ground up. On the topic of commitment, I am pleased that CTEP admission has stopped. Instead, XXX University has introduced a minor in education, which enables students interested in the field of education to complete foundational courses that help them develop their leadership skills while completing placements and participating in reflective inquiry. It is a step in the right direction.

In terms of coursework, teacher education needs a wake up call. I do not recall discussing topics such as classroom management, navigating the first year of teaching, realities of the teaching market (beyond “no jobs unless you’re in French”), the politicization of education, the history of education in Ontario, and the lack of support for new teachers. The topic of assessment in teaching should receive its own course; however, it was limited to a few hours in our Curriculum Instruction courses and many of us entered the classroom in September feeling overwhelmed, disjointed, and unprepared. We have all heard the saying, “Teacher’s college is a joke. If you can use a projector, you’ll pass.” My most inspiring teachers have told me that when I become a teacher, I will have to teach myself everything. While I am committed to learning as a lifelong process, I am disappointed that in theory, I have received specialized training deemed sufficient to assume the duties of a teacher; yet, I still feel incapable.

I am angered when people say, “If it’s your first year teaching, good luck. It’s going to be hell.” I am willing to challenge myself as I aspire to become a more experienced practitioner; however, I am more reluctant than ever to sign my French permanent teaching contract. Where are the mentorship programs for recent graduates? What happened to pride in our profession? For example, occasional teachers who have not completed an long term occasional contract longer than 97 days are not eligible for the New Teacher Induction Program. I vividly remember my principal telling me, “I cannot assign you a mentor because you have been here for a week, but report cards are coming up; you should reach out to a colleague.” The individualistic nature of the teachers at the school meant that no one was willing to help me. If I cannot help myself, how am I supposed to help the students? Teacher education programs and professional associations should play a more effective role in the induction of teachers into the profession.

Last but certainly not least, I never fully understood why my program only admitted students majoring in French, mathematics, and chemistry. Ironically, when I applied to the school district with teachables in French and history, I was hired as a social sciences occasional teacher and not for my French proficiency. My point is that teacher education programs have become more concerned with ‘filling holes’ in the Ontario system as opposed to developing teachers that can take their practice anywhere in the world.

In reforming teacher education programs, we need to examine why people want to be teachers and what they need in order to succeed in the classroom. It is as simple as asking for input from teacher candidates instead of delivering a predetermined curriculum that satisfies objectives in a document. Teachers are often told to include their students as partners in learning, but I do not recall being asked for any input until I had completed my program. What if teacher education programs were improved through collaboration with school boards and other stakeholders to gain a deeper, richer understanding of what students need in the classroom? An example is teaching 21st century skills, which require a thorough examination of the curriculum, teacher quality, and assessment. Initially, CTEP sparked a fire inside me, but my teacher education program and the school board have slowly extinguished it. Although I am grateful for everything I have learned, I am discouraged.

Division K New Faculty Preconference

Attention Division K New Faculty!

This Division K New Faculty Seminar is an exciting opportunity to meet, share, and network with other new faculty and the facilitators. The seminar is designed to:

  • Provide support for new teaching and teacher education faculty members,
  • Ask long-term Division K members about their experiences-particularly how they made the transition from graduate student to faculty member
  • Examine various methodological approaches to research,
  • Create professional networks that will last a lifetime, and
  • Make important connections that create a community of new scholars.

 

The preconference organizers are established scholars who will discuss ways to thrive in your career. Our division is committed to supporting new faculty! Last year we had a many more people who were interested than we could accept. We only have 30 spaces and those who register early will be given priority. The pre conference starts on Thursday, April 7 at 4:00. We meet again on Friday, April 8 from 9:00 – 12:00.

The deadline for Applications for the Division K New Faculty Preconference is Friday, December 18, 2015!

To apply for the pre-conference submit a two-page letter of application that includes a description of: (a) applicant’s background; (b) the applicant’s current position and years of service; (c) research interested and methodological approaches to research; and (d) one or two problems of issues in transitioning from being a graduate student to the role of faculty member. Please send it as a Word document (not PDF) and name it with your last name and NFPC – e.g., KosnikNFPC. Apply early, last year we filled all of the slots well before the deadline. If you applied last year but did not get a spot please state that in the opening paragraph of your letter.

Send your application and questions to Clare Kosnik at ckosnik@oise.utoronto.ca

The Pre-conference Facilitators are:

Renée T. Clift, University of Arizona
Tom Dana, University of Florida
Clare Kosnik, University of Toronto/Ontario Institute for Studies in Education
Rich Milner, University of Pittsburgh,
Roland Sintos Coloma, Miami University, Oxford, Ohio

 

 

Appreciating multiple perspectives: One Example

There are multiple sites of learning, multiple forms of education, and multiple kinds of learners. From time to time, I (Yiola) have shared posts on Muay Thai as an alternative site of education with a focus on the teacher/student relationship. Muay Thai is a beautiful martial art that originates from Thailand. Most would likely watch Muay Thai and cringe, call it brutal and see it as violent.  It would seem to be a sport that gains  popularity through the thrill of watching and cheering and betting and celebrating in celebrity style the fighters. In the video I share here, World Champion Simon Marcus shares his perspective on the sport.

The way he describes his experience is remarkably peaceful and remarkably personal.  He talks about himself as student of the art and how his teachings bring out his best personal self, where he finds his “most peaceful” moment. He talks about his gratitude for his teacher and the respect for his learnings.

One may perceive the fight as brutally violent while another perceives the fight as moment of peace and clarity ~ a fine example of multiple perspectives. “A Brutal Ballet” indeed.

Education is about knowing yourself, knowing your ability and opening yourself to exciting possibilities for development, growth and achievement. Teaching is about being open to multiple perspectives and appreciating the multiple ways our students find knowledge, achievement and peace… and finding ways to embrace and invite multiple perspectives into our learning environments.

 

“What curriculum do young people need in the 21st century?”

In his article for TES.com, John Dunford argues for whole education for ALL children not just those at top-attending schools. Dunford, Chair of Whole Education in the U.K., asserts those from econmically disadvantaged areas in the U.K. still receive “mid-20th-century knowledge-based curriculum.” He believes this antiquated curriculum “fails to recognise many of the needs of young people growing up in the 21st century.” He urges educators and policy makers to consider two key questions regarding curriculum:

  1. “What curriculum do young people need in the 21st century?”
  2. “What curriculum does most for the disadvantaged?”

In order to answer these questions, Dunford maintains it requires educators have unique set of knowledge, skills, and personal qualities in order to prepare young people for a rapidly changing world. Regarding the ways in which we view curriculum, he argues:

“It is not either/or; this is a both/and curriculum.”

To read the entire article click here: https://www.tes.com/news/school-news/breaking-views/%E2%80%98every-child-needs-a-fully-rounded-education-%E2%80%93-it-shouldn%E2%80%99t-just-be