Training

"Fullest self-transcendence is fullest self-regulation, self-expression and self-actualization. The needs for identity, self-actualization and self-transcendence are linked with one another, involving the processes of self-love and love for fellow-man and cosmos."[1]   "The growing or maturing person finds meaning in life, accepts  responsibility, and loses himself in his commitment, disregarding his egoistic impulses of tension reduction, pleasure and pride. He extends step by step the boundaries of the self, ultimately identifying himself with the highest values that can be comprehended."[2]

When we look at identity as an important aspect of the makeup of the teacher and how they teach, is this identity based on some types of principles? And if so, the first question that arises is whose principles? Who determines what these principles are?  Are they some esoteric ideals that simply fall from the sky?  Are they determined by some type of policy set from a higher authority?  And what determines what a principle is and what isn’t? A principle is defined as “ethical standard: a standard of moral or ethical decision-making.”  But again we can go into this continuing pattern of asking the next question that comes out of this definition, who determines what is moral or ethical?  It is difficult to get beyond these questions and move on considering how in our societies today, so much of our guidelines for moral and ethical behavior are based on these sound bites given by self-righteous politicians and religious leaders.  All fluff and no substance behind their statements.

            In looking at how teachers must make a shift in their teaching approach from what they learned in the 1970’s and early 1980’s.  We must shift our focus to a more individualized approach.  However, given limited resources, limited time barriers, etc, how do we move from seeing all as one to seeing the individual?  There needs to be a shift in teaching methods from the teacher “technician” to what would be defined as a “true” teaching process.  How do we motivate and create this change?  In a study done by Johnson (1986) it was found that:

Johnson (1986) distinguished three problems that require different orientations to teacher goals: attracting people into the profession, retaining them once there, and engaging them in improving their own performance. Most relevant to our study, the third goal requires the orchestration of organizational incentives that encourage teachers to think about their work in new ways and commit themselves to new standards and goals. According to Johnson’s (1986) review, these incentives should “coordinate teachers’ efforts, provide them with shared purpose, enhance the conditions of their work, and reaffirm their professional identity.”[3]

            The concept of the Laboratory Ideal, whereby theory and practice “grow together out of and into the teacher’s personal experience” (Dewey) vs. apprentice teacher – “who is grounded in following what has been successful with more experienced teachers regarding classroom control or maintaining order in the classroom,” speaks to this concept or ideal.  We must break out of the old mold (perhaps mold in more ways then one) of teaching and to look at enhancing the curriculum to be better suited to today’s needs.

            The question then arises how do we move from the traditional drill-skill activities that have been in practice for many years and move into a more “learning” opportunity for both teachers and students?  As mentioned in the chapter too often student teachers come into a classroom, as Grossman observed, and the regular teacher sees this as an opportunity for sabbatical and not a two way street for learning.  Then the student teacher moves from active teaching to what has “always worked for me” method of drill-skill activities from the veteran teacher (Grossman). Moving forward can we, in the current circumstances, truly believe that we can move towards a more dynamic/integrative approach to training teachers?  As David Hansen points out in his article:

Human beings become what they do, think, attend to, feel, and so forth. In a literal sense, or so Dewey argues, individuals “lose” their selves in what they take an interest in. However, at the same time, they “find” their selves in those very same interests (Dewey, 1997, pp. 126, 351–52). According to Dewey, a doctor who persists in her duties in the midst of a terrible plague reveals that her self is “found in that work.” If she gave the work up for comfort or safety, that would mean she had become a different kind of self (p. 352). “Self and interest are two names for the same fact,” Dewey writes; “the kind and amount of interest actively taken in a thing reveals and measures the quality of selfhood which exists” (p. 352).[4]

There is something inside all teachers, irregardless of time spent teaching that can get them excited about what they do.  We must find a way to light that spark and look towards motivation for change.

            As we move towards problem solving this dilemma certain variables come into focus.  There are three critically important resources for problem solving.  The first is time.  Time must be given time for development. How much is spent on the mundane or busy work and not on sharing of ideas?  Another area of concern is in the area of expertise and the utilization of outside sources, more so than those on the inside. In looking at this specific resource the questions arise as to how often does this really happen and how much is devoted to long-term learning instead of the “one-shot” deal?  The final resource mentioned is materials.  One note of caution about materials is avoiding what is the current fad and fashion versus what is valuable material. How many materials go to waste? Simply a look in storage closets and you can easily see the answer to this question.

            In discussing identity, a part of identity cannot exclude the relationship between teachers and administrators in the development of curriculum.  One are of importance in this discussion is to point out the difference between top-down management and site-based management.  A note of caution must be given in that some supposed collaborative approaches aren’t what they appear to be on the surface, but simply top-down management in disguise. 

            Once this proactive relationship is established care must be given to the training and the cost related to moving forward, as Philip Jackson stated, “I see absolutely no hope for the future of in-service education unless we are willing to pay for what we want”  (Jackson 1971).  And with this comes provisions for time, expertise, and materials. 

Most implementation efforts fail be­cause curriculum leaders neglect to pro­vide adequate staff development oppor­tunities. It is assumed that teachers often have the necessary expertise to implement the curriculum change with little or no assistance. Patterson and Czajkowski (1979) noted that the major areas of staff development are re-education and re-socialization. Re-education is the de­velopment or refinement of competencies necessary to implement the innovation. This may be facilitated through hiring a consultant from the university or develop­ing a series of information sessions related to instructional planning and materials.[5]

So the old adage is true to some extent, “you have to spend money to make money.”  If you want to tweak this statement, you might say “you have to spend money to make curriculum work.”

            If we are to move to a higher level of development in our approach to curriculum in direct relationship to identity, we must move towards a more creative approach within ourselves.  The question arises, do teachers really have the chance to be creative given outside pressure, i.e. one parent with a child in third grade talks to another parent with a child in another third grade class (same school) and discovers that things are being done differently!  Perhaps the one teacher is applying more creative strategies in the classroom other than the old drill-skill method.  What happens to the creative teacher than?  What happens to the drill-skill teacher?  In theory we can discuss how one doesn’t have to impede the other.  However, in schools often times the expectation is that all teachers move together at the same rate and pace and with the same methodologies. 

Conceptions of what counts as good teaching are narrowing, and as they narrow we sense a growing danger that what makes a particular teacher extraordinary will be neglected, or at best underappreciated. To be sure, the high value placed on technical teaching skills might improve the teaching of some, but as a distortion of teaching excellence it will likely result in less extraordinary teaching for those who do not fit the preferred model. A teacher is many things, not just a technician. These other things are what distinguishes one technically competent teacher from another, and yet they are the most difficult of all things to describe let alone to measure.[6]

So the question arise, can we really move beyond status quo of schools?  This is where the relationship between supervisor and teacher is critical.  Does the supervisor have the courage and endurance to support teachers in their efforts to improve the curriculum?  As Dewey has pointed out teachers should be provided the opportunity to function at more creative level from the beginning.  If this opportunity doesn’t arrive you could say some teachers die at 20 and are buried at 80 (at least in the area of curriculum creativity).

It is imperative that teachers move towards a more idea-oriented teaching. Teachers need to move away from pointing out the errors and more focus on the ideas that are being conveyed.  Is it any wonder why students move from excitable enthusiastic to robotically respondents, i.e. kindergarten excitement to middle-school repetition? 

            In looking at the role of supervisors and administrators one area of discussion is what a supervisor should allow when it comes to the problem solving process.  The supervisor should help individual teachers apply the best methods that are known to improve their teaching.  Their argument is no more top down approach.  However, too often changes in the curriculum are mandated by outside influences that tend to cause an intervention strategy that is not proactive, but more reactionary.   Research had found that this type of “quick-fix” approach should be guarded against.

Change is a complicated process demanding well thought-out strategies needed to accomplish new curriculum ideas. Researchers at the University of Texas have developed a model of change called the Concerns-Based Adoption Model (Hall, Wallace, and Dossett 1973). After an in-depth six years study, the model identified four primary assump­tions about change and provided the framework for specific guidelines for cur­riculum implementation. 

The first assumption of the model is that change is not an event but a process that takes time. Too often curriculum matters are mandated by administrators as a result of a legislative requirement or procedural decision without regard for time needed for implementation. The second assumption of the model is that change is accomplished by individuals not institutions. The third assumption is that change is a highly personal experi­ence. The emotional needs and feelings of people are just as important as the technical aspects of innovative curriculum change. Individuals who are satisfied and motivated will play a major role in the success of the change process. The fourth assumption is that change entails devel­opmental growth in both feelings about and skills in using new programs.[7]

     Too often school improvement plans are rejected by school administrator because the plan doesn’t include raising test scores.  We have been so focused on test scores rather than substance that we have lost sight of what education should be about, educating students.  Avoidance of unwise policies that could actually be contrary to school’s own interests, i.e. cutting funds for extra curricular activities is too often the choice made to calm the savage beast (quieting those that clamor for a back to basics approach).  The extra curricular activities become the sacrificial lamb.  As in all aspects of progress it takes a monetary investment to move forward.  And that investment doesn’t need to come out of the teacher’s own pocket to fall into a simple survivalist mode. 

           When it comes to professional development and further development of the self-identity often time teachers’ unions are seen as the root of all evil.  In our constant need to find someone to blame too often the unions are seen as the cause of many of our problems in education.

Ask educational reformers what role teacher unions play in reform, and

they will likely say that unions obstruct reform and preserve the status quo.  Critics accuse unions of diluting or derailing educational reform efforts, of undermining the authority of administrators, and of impeding economic restructuring and prosperity (Peck, 1988; Toch, 1991; Urban, 1982). Unions, critics claim, pursue narrow self-interests, often at the expense of broader educational interests (Angell, 1981; Berube, 1988; Nelson, Carlson, & Palonsky, 1996); protect incompetent teachers (Bridges, 1986; Nelson et al., 1996;Williams, 1981); and raise the cost of education without improving the quality of education (Angell, 1981; Eberts&Stone, 1984; Lieberman, 1980; Nelson et al., 1996; O’Reilly, 1978). Lieberman (1997), in his latest indictment of teacher unions, accused the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers of sabotaging reform efforts and holding the educational system hostage to bureaucracy in their efforts to maximize teacher welfare.

[8]

Administrators, politicians, community members and school boards hang on to these myths without adequate documentation of these accusations being true.  Not that some fault needs to lie at the feet of the unions; however, too much of the blame has been directed their way.  Yes, there are those at the more local level believe that the role of the union is primarily to focus on the short-term problems.

Teachers, dealing with the everyday challenges of the classroom, often do not see the broader challenges confronting the profession and insist that the union focus on the short-term needs of teachers. CEA participants explained, “One of the things we found from our survey of all of our members is that members’ major concerns relate to the workplace, to their everyday experience. Their lack of time for preparations, for meeting with colleagues, for planning lessons; the size of their classes; the lack of respect from administrators they perceive they experience. Those are their major concerns as professionals.”

Union leaders at the local level receive the most pressure from teachers to focus on their immediate needs. From an NSTU perspective, “in the last few years, with all of the cutbacks and the demoralization, everybody feels that they’re under attack all the time. And they’ve done one of two things: They’ve either hunkered down and said, “I don’t want to know what’s happeningto me,” or they’ve been actively involved in looking after their members’interests. But they haven’t really looked at the big picture.”

[9]

              

However, teachers’ unions must look long term just as much as administrators, politicians, community members and school boards.

State or provincial union leaders face the daunting task of convincing teachers that the organization can effectively pursue new interests (or resurrect neglected interests) without compromising the organization’s established competencies with respect to economic and security interests. Many factors will influence the outcome of union reorientation, including whether teachers will embrace reorientation and whether management will engage in a reciprocal reorientation with respect to the teacher union.[10]

One note of caution though when it comes to coalition building:

Our position takes a cautious step away from the simple assertion that

coalitional politics that advance "labor reform" is the favored union strategy,

because such an unreflective position tacitly endorses existing arrangements

produced by the law of the motion of capital, the forces of production, and the

social relations of production. In other words, this position willfully ignores

the complex means whereby the schooling process itself is implicated in the

historical, development of knowledge as a form of private ownership of the

intellectual labor of the many for the profit of the few. Through its implication

in the historical development of knowledge, labor reform fatefully naturalizes,

institutionalizes, legitimizes, and makes hegemonic commonsense

understandings of the relationship between schooling and capitalism that

serves to refunction and reproduce neoliberal educational ideology.[11]

            At the same time, we can not expect a changing in the teachers’ unions will alleviate the problems and concerns with education today.  We can not be fooled by those disguising collaboration on surface while in reality conducting top-down management.  As always, actions speak louder than words. In creating a vision-making and goal setting environment the ultimate goal is to motivate students to learn.  Goals need to be connected to a vision.  But once again we need to look beyond just the words!  We also must be put our assumptions behind and truly work collaboratively.

Proponents of union restructuring erroneously assume that a unilateral change in teacher union behavior will lead to conditions more favorable for educational reform. However, little of substance is likely to change without reciprocal reconstruction of management behavior. Union reorientation with respect to educational reform will accomplish little, if anything, without a willingness on the part of policy makers, administrators, and school boards to form partnerships with teacher unions to achieve meaningful educational reform.[12]

Is our road to school reform going to be an autocratic approach or truly a democratic approach to problem solving?  A part of initiating the process must come from department heads and principals. However, this shouldn’t be at the exclusion of teachers.  Once again we need to involve all in the process.

            Another important area of consideration is that curriculum development is circular process that is never finished.  My question is do people really get this? Do they understand that in resolving one issue or problem you then invite other issues and problems to springboard from this situation?  Some may look at this as an exhausting process.  However, it should be viewed as a dynamic and exhilarating journey known as learning!

            The one final question remaining is can we really move forward?  What political obstacles must be overcome?  Is there really opportunity for educational reform?

The richest 10th of households in the United States own 83% of the country's financial assets, whereas the poorest four fifths own only 8%. The Center for the Study of Popular Economics noted, "If a Ford Escort represents the average financial wealth of an African-American household, you would need a stretch limousine 300 yards long to show the average for a white household" (Heintz & Folbre, 2000, p. 17). Citing John Roemer, Callinicos (2000) similarly noted that to achieve "deep" equality of opportunity with respect to education in the United States, with the objective of ensuring that children in whatever circumstances who expend the same effort will have the same adult earning capacity, would require spending $900 on every white student and $2900 on every black student.

[13]

We often site, in our continual quest to “blame the victim,” to state that out of control social spending (education included) has been the cause of run away government deficits.  But as McLaren and Farahmandpur state,

The "big lie" of our time, noted McMurtry (2000), is that blame for the

lack of government funding for education (and the social sector in general) is

the increased debts on public sector life goods. That is, the blame is placed on

supposed "out-of-control social spending." This amounts to an obscene distortion,

an unvarnished deception. In Canada, for instance, less than 6% of

the increased government deficit was due to increased social spending,

whereas 50% was due to increased interest charges, and 44% was due to tax

cuts for corporations and individuals in high-income tax brackets, according

to a Statistics Canada report that was, it is worth noting, engaged by the federal

finance ministry and the corporate mass media (McMurtry, 2000).[14]

So we must dispel the myths that have been created by those who have something to gain in the process, namely profit. In moving towards a better educational collaboration and seeing the value of one’s own identity as a teacher, we must not be afraid to ask those questions that may not be the popular or call into account those in power.

            In looking at the various authors and their perspectives over the course of this semester, those such as E.D. Hirsch would have us believe that identity is of no value and inconsequential when it comes to classroom instruction. As Pepi Leistyna points out in Presence of Mind: Education and the Politics of Deception, Hirsch ignores identity and differences.  “By ignoring the issues that many social theorists raise about the role of power and ideology in shaping culture and social relations, Hirsch fails to take into consideration how schools and other institutions nationwide function to legitimate particular experiences and worldviews at the expense of others, thus reproducing forms of inequality and oppression. He seems to believe that culture, history, and social reality are driven by mother nature, stating that, "Essential names and concepts have arisen by historical accident" ( 1988a, p. 28). "History has decided what those elements are" (p. 107)” (Leistyna 1998).  By choosing to ignore our differences, Hirsch in some respects hopes to continue to put blinders on the educational process.  By emphasizing a grab bag of facts and figures he only reinforces the perpetuation of the status quo.  The unfortunate aspect of this approach is that when called into question those that support Hirsch would label those who question his approach as being extremists or not serving in the best interest of American values.

I simply leave with this quote:

When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint.. . . And when I ask why they have no food, they call me a communist.

-Brazilian Bishop Helder Camara[15]

 

 

References:

Grossman, P. L. Teaching to Learn. The Changing Contexts of Teaching, Ninety-first Yearbook of the National Society for the Study of Education: 183.

Jackson, P. W. (1971). Old Dogs and New Tricks: Observations on the Continuing Education of Teachers. Improving In-Service Education: Proposals and Procedures for Change. L. J. Rubin. Boston, Allyn and Bacon: 29.

Leistyna, P. (1998). Presence of Mind: Education and the Politics of Deception. Boulder, CO, Westview Press.

           

 

[1] Frankl, Viktor E., Man's Search for Meaning, Washington Square Press, Simon and Schuster, New York, 1963, p.53-54.

[2] Ibid., p. 54

[3] Leithwood, K., Steinback, R., and Jantzi, D., School Leadership and Teachers’ Motiviation to Implement Accountablity Policies, Educational Administration Quarterly, Vol. 38, No. 1 (February 2002), p. 99.

[4] Hansen, David, Dewey’s Conception of an Environment for Teaching and Learning, Curriculum Inquiry, Vol. 32, No. 3, p. 208.

[5] Virgillio, Steven J. and Irene R., The Role of the Principal In Curriculum Implementation, Education, Vol.104, No. 4, p. 348.

[6] Bullough, JR.Robert V., Patterson, Robert S., and Mayes, Clifford T., Teacher As Prophecy, Curriculum Inquiry, Vol. 32:3 (2002), p. 311.

[7] Virgillio, Steven J. and Irene R., The Role of the Principal In Curriculum Implementation, Education, Vol.104, No. 4, p. 348.

[8] Poole, Wendy L., The Teacher Unions’ Role in 1990s Educational Reform: An Organizational Evolution Perspective, Educational Administration Quarterly, Vol. 37, No. 2 (April 2001), p.173-174.

[9] Poole, Wendy L., The Teacher Unions’ Role in 1990s Educational Reform: An Organizational Evolution Perspective, Educational Administration Quarterly, Vol. 37, No. 2 (April 2001), p.194.

[10] Ibid., p. 195.

[11] McLaren, Peter and Farahmandpur, Ramin, Educational Policy and the Socialist Imagination: RevolutionaryCitizenship as a Pedagogy of Resistance, Educational Policy, July 2001, p. 361.

[12] Poole, Wendy L., The Teacher Unions’ Role in 1990s Educational Reform: An Organizational Evolution Perspective, Educational Administration Quarterly, Vol. 37, No. 2 (April 2001), p. 195.

[13] McLaren, Peter and Farahmandpur, Ramin, Educational Policy and the Socialist Imagination: RevolutionaryCitizenship as a Pedagogy of Resistance, Educational Policy, July 2001, p. 345.

[14] McLaren, Peter and  Farahmandpur, Ramin, Educational Policy and the Socialist Imagination: RevolutionaryCitizenship as a Pedagogy of Resistance, Educational Policy, July 2001, p. 350.

[15] Galeano, E. (2000). Upside down: A primer for the looking-class world (Trans. M. Fried). New York: Metropolitan Books, p.311

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