As mentioned in a previous blog post, Clive and I (Clare) are interviewing teachers who are part of our longitudinal study of teachers. Many of our teachers have had life-changing events – including becoming a parent. The teacher we were interviewing in northeast US this past week is a new Mom and is home on maternity leave. We did a division of labour: while I was interviewing the teacher, Clive babysat the new baby who is four months old. The question is: who had more fun? Me doing the interview with an amazing teacher or Clive babysitting an adorable youngster? It was a toss up because we both had a great time. So for budding researchers …. Do not be surprised that your role includes some unexpected duties (which no one told you about in grad school) – such as babysitting.
On a more serious note, a number of teachers in our study over the last 7-10 years have become parents (including adopting a child). It is interesting to see how they change once they become moms or dads:
Juggling being a new parent and a teacher has led to changes in practices and views. All have found the dual role draining.
New parents definitely have to shorten their work days! Working morning, noon, and night and all weekend which many had done as new teachers was no longer feasible.
They developed a number of strategies to streamline planning and marking.
When we asked how their views and/or values changed now that they are a parent many have commented they have become more compassionate. They appreciate how much parents have to trust teachers to care for their child (as they would) and how vulnerable children are. Their views towards parents in many cases have becoming more understanding while with the students they say are more flexible.
Interestingly, a number have commented that now as a parent, they are not as focused on covering the curriculum (standards or expectations); rather, they have become more focused on the individual child to ensure he/she is happy and thriving.
Some have said they have become less critical of themselves. They can only do so much and do not feel so guilty putting boundaries around their personal life.
There is so much more to being a teacher than covering the curriculum. There is so much more to being a researcher than just working with the data. You have to be flexible and be willing to assume some untraditional duties – just ask Clive.
Today the research group will be presenting work from the project Literacy Teacher Educators: Their Backgrounds, Visions and Practices, at the Ministry of Education/Faculties of Education Forum – Research Practice:Nurturing relationships for teaching, learning and well-being. It will be an interesting and exciting day.
Supporting Student Well-Being through Mindfulness Practices
Last week I (Shelley Murphy) had the opportunity to hear Finnish educator and scholar Pasi Sahlberg speak about the quality of Finland’s education system. One of the many things that stood out to me as particularly memorable was Finland’s teachers’ primary focus on supporting student well-being. It got me thinking about the newly published Ontario Ministry of Education document Achieving Excellence: A Renewed Vision for Education in Ontariohttp://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/about/excellent.html. Its focus is on the skills, knowledge, and characteristics learners need for success and well-being and a plan of action for promoting these. I am excited to know that the ministry has recognized the fundamental importance of student well-being and has included it as one of its four core priorities here in Ontario.
One way to promote student well-being and resilience is through mindfulness awareness practices. Mindfulness practice, which has most recently been taught and practiced within the context of medicine, has been increasingly attracting attention in the field of education. When I was an elementary teacher, I used mindfulness practices to help students learn to be more self-aware, less reactive, and to meet each moment with greater attention and presence. As a teacher educator, I now introduce my preservice students to mindfulness awareness practices within my Special-Education courses. There is increasingly convincing data showing that regular mindfulness practices strengthen the areas of the brain that control attention, executive functioning, emotion regulation, and mental flexibility. A myriad of groups and organizations are surfacing to promote mindfulness in our schools for these very reasons (e.g. Discover Mindfulness in Ontario http://discovermindfulness.ca/ ; Mindful Schools in California http://www.mindfulschools.org/ ). Considering the importance of supporting the mental health, resilience, and overall well-being of both school aged students and our preservice teachers, I think mindfulness awareness practices and their applications within educational settings are worth taking a closer look at!
It’s based on the first 8 years of our longitudinal study of 42 teachers, teaching mainly in Ontario but also New York and New Jersey.
Our central finding was that teachers learn a great deal informally, especially through classroom experience. This is in line with Donald Schon’s (1983) notion of “reflection in practice”: teachers learn through “experimental research, then and there, in the classroom” (p. 66). Similarly, Chris Day (1999) speaks of “the largely private, unaided learning from experience through which most teachers learn to survive, become competent, and develop” (p. 2).
Over their first 8 years, our teachers learned about: program planning, assessment, individualization, teaching for relevance, classroom organization, community building, work-life balance, and many other topics. In varying degrees, they developed a comprehensive, integrated vision of effective teaching, going well beyond their initial understanding.
In the book we discuss key implications of these findings:
Teachers should see themselves as major “experts” on teaching, with abundant opportunities to inquire into teaching over the years. They should be willing to make decisions in the classroom and take a firm stance in adapting system initiatives.
ITE instructors should promote this strong conception of teacher learning and expertise, and see themselves largely as “laying a foundation…preparing novices to learn in and from their practice” (Feiman-Nemser, 2001, p. 1016).
PD facilitators should dialogue with teachers and build on their emerging vision and approach, rather than imposing system mandates in top-down fashion.
Principals should support teachers in their learning, providing frequent opportunities for them to watch each other teach and share their developing insights.
Teachers can benefit greatly from external input, but not if it’s imposed “top-down” without reference to their views and experiences.
We have greatly enjoyed listening to the teachers in our study and will continue to do so into the future. We hope their voices and experiences will be helpful to teachers, teacher candidates, ITE instructors, and all those responsible for school policies and ongoing teacher learning.
Many of you have read Pooja’s incredibly interesting blog posts on this site. I am happy to share the good news that Pooja got married on Sunday. The ceremony was just lovely and the bride was beautiful. Best wishes to you and Neky for many happy and healthy years together.
Clive, Cathy, Lydia, Yiola, and Clare
Yesterday I (Gisela Wajskop) shared with Monica McGlynn-Stewart an important moment in her professional and personal life as well as in the lives of her students at George Brown College (Toronto, Ontario). I attended the Second Annual Bachelor of Early Childhood Leadership Research Symposium organized jointly with Fanshawe College (London, Ontario) and Sheridan College (Oakville, Ontario). The event celebrated the innovative early childhood education (ECE) program. This four-year program prepares students to be educators and to become leaders in curriculum and pedagogy development for Ontario’s early childhood settings. These include: childcare centers, nursery schools, family drop-in programs (including Ontario Early Years Centres, family resource centers and parenting programs), family support programs, and early intervention services.
I was quite excited by the students’ serious and enthusiastic research presentations that were based on their practice/placements in schools and community centres. The program believes the field of ECE requires critical thinkers and practitioners who have vision, a professional demeanour, and in-depth knowledge. The ECE program wants to prepare future leaders and educators; they hope to empower students by using a variety of pedagogical strategies (e.g., research on practice). Overall they aim to raise expectations for their students; the new standards for the profession raise the accountability bar.
Attending the Symposium reminded me of my Brazilian students and the practices we developed together the last 12 years. As a teacher educator I was committed to empowering my students to have a critical voice in the field just as those three Colleges aim to do.
Participating in this very special event reminded me that we are entering Passover: I am grateful to Monica who opened her door to me … and I wish her students all the best. Under her supervision and leadership may they develop and become better people and excellent professionals. Chag Sameach for all!
I (Clare) am pleased to share some good news. We submitted a proposal to the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) to fund the project Rethinking Literacy Teacher Education for the Digital Era: Teacher Educators, Literacy Educators, and Digital Technology Experts Working Together. One of the main activities of the project will be bringing together 16 experts from three fields and 4 countries (Canada, US, UK, and Australia) to address the following questions.
How is our understanding of literacy evolving in light of the new ways we communicate?
How can literacy/English teacher educators (LTEs) prepare student teachers to develop and implement literacy programs that capitalize on digital technology (DT)?
What teacher education curriculum changes are required to better prepare future teachers to integrate technology in their own teaching?
What professional learning support do LTEs need to develop courses that will integrate and make greater use of DT?
As a team we are going to work together to:
develop a statement on literacy teacher education that offers direction on how to integrate digital technology into teacher education literacy courses;
extend our website http://www.literacyteaching.net to include video interviews of all the participants discussing their views and current research and their course outlines and supplementary course materials;
produce an edited book Crossing Boundaries: Literacy/English Teacher Educators Incorporating Digital Technology in Their Courses
As academics we tend to work in our “silo” which although allows us to specialize it has limitations. The symposium will provide an opportunity to work in an inter-disciplinary manner which may help us move forward the field of literacy teacher education. My co-applicants for the proposal are Lin Goodwin (Teachers College), Simone White (Monash University), Bethan Marshall (King’s College UK), Jean Murray (University of East London), and Clive Beck (University of Toronto). I will continue to provide updates on our work.
Monica McGlynn-Stewart who is part of our research team on the longitudinal study of teachers is our first guest blogger. For more information on Monica click on the tab About our Research then click on Meet the Team.
I (Monica) gave my 16-year-old daughter I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai for Christmas and now I am getting a chance to read it. It is the memoir of a 16-year-old girl who was shot by the Taliban for speaking out about girls’ right to education. I find it fascinating for many reasons, not least of which is what I am learning about life in the Swat Valley in Pakistan. As an educator, I am always interested in learning about different systems of education and different pedagogical practices. Malala is the daughter of a school principal and had access to formal education except for a brief period when schools were closed by the Taliban, but many girls in the Swat Valley do not have access to education. In her descriptions of her studies, she relates how she memorized and recited religious texts, poetry, history, and even chemistry formulas. Her mother, who did not learn to read and write, can also recite many texts that she learned through hearing them. When I went to elementary school in the 70’s, we sometimes had to memorize a poem and recite it, but it was a rare occurrence. As an elementary teacher, I never asked my students to memorize texts, but they would learn many poems by authors such as Dennis Lee or Shel Silverstein because we read them out loud so often. For young students, “memory reading” a text that they had memorized was an important step in learning to read. So I am wondering, what role does memorization and recitation play in literacy learning? And can we consider someone illiterate who has memorized and can purposely refer to a large body of literature?
Today is Family Literacy Day in Canada. http://abclifeliteracy.ca/fld/family-literacy-day
It is a day that recognizes the importance of families building literacy skills together. Looking back, what did family literacy look like in your household? In what capacity did literacy development occur? In my home I (Yiola) taught my parents the language of English and my parents taught me the value of English.
I find Family Literacy Day to be a very well intentioned initiative. The ideas presented in the link on family literacy are interesting. As a Teacher Educator who teaches from a critical perspective I cannot help but ask, how can the concept of family literacy be made accessible for all families? How do we make the concept more inclusive? When thinking about ‘Daily Literacy Activities’ I wonder, what can we add to the list found on the website?
I plan to share this list with my student teachers and ask them for additional activities to include that may draw in a variety of families. I’m thinking of multilingual processes, digital opportunities, oral traditions.
Happy Family Literacy Day!