Learning to Transform (Teacher Education)

My friend and colleague, Kelly Sassi, leads us into this morning with Writing into the Day

If you’ve been following my Twitter feed, or even my Facebook posts, over the past few days, you may have seen that I’m at the Transformative Teacher Education Fellowship Summer Institute this week.  Although my Twitter has been a frenzied series of thoughts and takeaways from my time here, those who have been following along with my Facebook posts may not know what I’ve been learning.  So here’s a brief recap of some things I’ve encountered in the first evening and first 3 full days this week that I will bring into my teaching and research practice to begin my part in transforming teacher education:

Evening 1: Keynote by Kathy Schultz 

A powerful slide from Kathy’s talk that really spoke to me

After a very long day of travel, from California (and a 4:10 am wake-up), I made my way to the campus of Arcadia University, in Glenside, PA via Philadelphia. I had just enough time to grab my keys to my dorm room and meet my roomie, Sherry, before heading down to the opening keynote by Kathy Schultz. Kathy spoke about the notion of distrust and what teacher educators (and teachers) need to support students in these precarious times. Here are some of my more salient tweets from that evening:

Some takeaways from Kathy’s talk were: the importance of telling our own stories as teacher educators, as offering important counter narratives to deficit thinking; the importance of educational spaces to actively engage distrustful students by acknowledging all that they bring into a learning space; and the slowness that it takes in building the foundation of trust upon which learning can take place.

Day 1: Making

The Power of Play by Matt Farber

TTEF is organized around some core elements of a connected learning framework: making, connecting, and hacking (as discussed in Kira Baker-Doyle’s Transformative Teachers book.  The first full day of the institute centered around the idea of making.  One of my biggest takeaways from Day 1 was around play and exploration.  Making, for me, has always been so heavily connected to technology that it was helpful to have framing and activities that included technology, but also included other forms of play–engaging with card games for learning, and making a simple cardboard automata.  It was such a fun day, and I really want to push myself to integrate more intentional, guided play (to promote learning) in my life and my teaching. Here are some of my favorite tweets from Day 1:

Day 2: Connecting

Slide of Youth Participatory Action Research driving central question

Day 2 was organized around the theme of connecting.  The presentation today by Nicole Mirra and Danielle Filipek on Youth Participatory Action Research really struck me as powerful, particularly in terms of how we can bring a critically informed lens to our inquiry about the world around us.  I appreciated their ideas around dialogue and inquiry — how we can think about the ways we talk about issues; and how we can break down various problematic discourses, thinking about their root causes and what outcomes grow out of those discourses.  These are really powerful practices for me to take back to my students. We ended Day 2 by joining a book club meeting around the book So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo. Connecting with one another and others in the local community around the text was an important experience for me because text can really ground critical conversations about important topics. Just a few tweets from Day 2:

Day 3: Hacking 

Hacking bottle tops (corks & lids) to make tiny chairs

Day 3’s theme was hacking.  Hacking is often equated with causing mischief and disruption, but hacking in education can be a powerful tool for creation.  Some of the things we thought about in relation to hacking were: creating our collective civic futures through multiple forms of expression; how to hack what it means to interact with a text through collaborative annotation; how to hack instruction to put students at the center in facilitating powerful conversations; and finally, how to hack discourses that can deny some students their humanity and access to learning.  We ended the day with my closing “web of learning” activity, showing our interconnections and thinking about ideas we are bringing forth into our work, and those ideas we are leaving behind that may not serve our goals. Some tweets from Day 3:

Day 4: Envisioning

A road in Glenside, PA, seen on my morning run

We just finished day 4.  Today’s theme was envisioning.  After writing into the day with Kelly, we had the opportunity to hear from Lynnette Mawhinney whose workshop on supporting teachers of color throughout the pipeline was so powerful.  Lynnette highlighted the increasing gap between the percentage of students of color and that of teachers of color. While total percentage of teachers of color is getting better, it’s not doing so fast enough to keep pace with the growing number of students of color; in fact, 40% of schools still don’t have a single teacher of color.  We then talked about microaggressions and other barriers to the success of teachers of color, that begin in preservice teacher education and continue as teachers of color enter their classrooms. I’m left with thinking about how to help my teacher candidates of color (who are disproportionately affected by gatekeeper tests for certification) navigate the barriers they face throughout the teacher pipeline, but particularly in terms of testing.  In our closing activity, Yolanda reminded us that affirming our work is important. Her praise, question, polish protocol is one that I am excited to use in my own practice to push my teacher candidates and teachers to go deeper.  Some tweets from today:

Moving Forward

Tomorrow, we begin applying all we’ve learned over the past 4 days to our course syllabi and projects for change in our institutions.  I may be tweeting less, but I’ll certainly be thinking a lot, as I infuse all I’ve learned into the courses I’ll be planning, centering my teacher candidates and their students.  I’ll keep you updated and I hope you’ll join me on the journey of transforming teacher education.