Wednesday, April 3, 2013

A School of Education meeting where “there (was) no there there”

The grand dame theatrical elocution,  the florid gay man’s voice and the intention of the questions, “How dared you? Why? Why? Why didn’t you assign student teachers to my school”, were truly out of place at a School of Education cooperating teachers meeting. It was obvious that he wanted to recriminate a colleague, a gay colleague in an elementary euducation faculty meeting (a not very easy place to be if you were gay, as opposed to a belle arts or le French iiterature department) , for not placing student teachers in his school that semester. But, in adddition to the politics,  the theatrics and the performance were not to be at what usually were highly bureaucratized meetings; though one can argue that after Lillian Weber left the faculty the place became a Gertrude Stein's “there is no there there.”

No progressive educational practices in a pro-progressive teacher education institution should be a “no brainer”, but that was not the case with the Lord of the PS Whatever School where the students were to experience different methods and approaches to teach elementary school students. As it was found out later it was not the case either with some of the College teacher educators that were also at the meeting. (Is this gossip? No, as it will be discussed later on, this  anecdotal case study  can serve to explain why there is some degree of failure in the implementation of teacher education programs.)
The PS Whatever elementary school was a highly traditional school with its rigid lesson plans , offering very limited opportunities for the student teachers to experience diverse teaching approaches and methods: from the behaviorist based found at the PS Whatever school to more open ended, student centered activities. In order for the student teachers to be able to plan and manage large group of children they need to face, plan and manage different educational situations. It is quite obvious that when these future teachers will go out into the field they will have to handle diverse school philosophies and practices: from the rigid nineteenth century approaches still found in most inner city schools to schools where student centered curricula drives the teaching-learning experiecnes, usually found in middle class communities. Therefore, the student teachers had to be placed in schools where there were more educational opportunities for them to learn from.
Although the theatrics gave a little flavor to what were usually quite boring meetings, the response by one of the colleagues serves to reveal why professional educational decisions are not often the priority at institutions of higher education. The next day, the very traditional principal of the school where future teachers could not experience diverse scientifically based practices was nominated to be chosen as Principal of the Year. Politics took over. What did not occur to the teacher educator was how she/he was not only betraying a colleague; but sending the wrong message to the students who were refused the opportunities to observe and practice what they had study in her/his own teacher education program; and worse of all, how she/he was betraying what was one of the theoretical pillars of her/his educational institution: progressive education ideas.  This last betrayal is a common problem at schools of education: progressive teacher educators that are not progressive in their own practices, the old “do as as say but not as I do.” Once more la Stein was correct, some schools of education are places where “there Is no there there.”             


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