Tuesday, March 13, 2012

From the Frying Pan and Into the Fire: Becoming a Teacher Educator

It took me almost 4 years of college to become a licensed teacher. I taught in a variety of settings from 1985 - 2010. And then it took me 6 years to complete a doctorate in teacher education so I could do what I so love to do - teach "would be" teachers and prepare that next generation to provide a quality education for our nation's children. 

Becoming a teacher educator goes well beyond having your Ph.D. in hand and getting hired by a college/university. I am more attuned to the accountability to impact student learning than I was as a classroom teacher. There is still so much for me to learn. There are so many voices in education now that it is difficult to know what the priorities are and whose voice I should turn my ear to and whose I should block out.

For example, the conversation on the Common Core Standards not only affects the P-20 classroom; it affects what I include in my curriculum to prepare new teachers. As a program coordinator I have the power to make changes in my programs to reflect the expectations of all of our stakeholders (federal, state, local education agencies). But right now I feel, and I would guess many other teacher educators feel the same way, that we are building the plane as we fly it.

My job is now going to be tied to how well the teachers I prepared impact student achievement in their own schools. 

The challenge is to find a way to get ahead of the curve; to design learning in such a way that we can dovetail with what the P-20 schools need. More than anything I want to make that powerful impact. But I feel isolated in the silo of the university. It's like trying to touch someone with a pane of glass between you. I can see you; you can see me, but we don't quite connect. Yet, somehow we're still expected to make a difference. Sound familiar?

This is my first year as a teacher educator and a program coordinator at the university. We're not the bad guys here. We are running as fast as we can to help make the difference everyone wants to see. We're trying to listen to all of the voices swirling around us and hope that we can be a part of the conversation. It's the difference between being talked to and being talked at.