Rachel Fortgang is a former student of Shawn’s, and a current student teacher.
Harvard University professor Jal Mehta recently penned an editorial for the New York Times in which he argues, essentially, “American education is a failed profession.” His contention rests on the falsity of most reform propositions, that whether we are asked to take sides in the Michelle Rhee vs. Diane Ravitch debate, or whether we follow Waiting for Superman into a charter vs. public contest, we are operating in a place that will not lead to long-term, effective solutions. Interestingly, Mehta reasons that the major solution rests in the professionalization of the teaching profession, something that has been promulgated in books like Andy Hargreaves and Michael Fullan’s Professional Capital but has remained an elusive position for teacher leadership and reform advocates alike.
Rachel, who is finishing up her student teaching, has noticed the relatively strange position of teachers since she decided to join their ranks. Both highly educated and a veteran of programs like the Harlem Children’s Zone in New York, Rachel is one of those that the profession should be trying to attract. Yet, her initial foray has introduced a distinct conundrum. She notes:
“It’s been strange telling my friends, most of whom at this point are finishing up law school, med school, or writing for prestigious news outlets, that I am going to be a teacher. There is, I think, an unspoken disappointment that this is what I ‘have come to,’ that if I cannot be a famous writer, I will resort to standing in front of a classroom intoning the difference between a metaphor and a simile for a group of adolescents who may not care less, year after year, for the rest of my life. What I’ve been coming up against, as I just dip my toe into this profession, is the largely unspoken reality about American society’s perception of the amount of skill, or to put it more bluntly, the intelligence, that is required to be an effective teacher.”
Part of Rachel’s issue is the fact that the teaching profession occupies a strange zone within the range of professions. In Shawn’s Issues and Ethics in Education class, he often muses about “what collar” a teacher wears. Rooms are often divided between those who argue blue and those who argue white, although the final denouement usually finds the class realizing that it is neither. The teaching profession straddles a line between these two worlds, and as long as it does so, it will perpetually face the labor strife that accompanies working class positions while seeking the protections normally associated with other career fields. Mehta suggests that teachers have to work harder to have teaching be seen as a “profession on par with fields like law and medicine.” (more…)
Dr. Judith A. Ramaley is President Emerita and Distinguished Professor of Public Service at Portland State University in the Mark O. Hatfield School of Government and President Emerita of Winona State University in Minnesota and The University of Vermont. Dr. Ramaley holds an appointment as a Senior Scholar with the Association of American Colleges and Universities. She is also a member of the board of Second Nature, an organization committed is to create a healthy, just, and sustainable society through the transformation of higher education and Oregon Campus Compact. She has worked with preK-12/higher education collaborations for many years.
Read Dr. Ramaley’s paper in its entirety.
In brief, not yet, but read on. A flurry of articles and books in the 1970s and 1980s explored concepts of professionalism. Educators have followed a path similar to other fields but K-12 teaching is still not seen as a true profession by many. There are several reasons for this, including how education itself has developed over the last century, where teachers receive their education (largely in less prestigious institutions) and who enters the field (mostly women).
Prior to the mid-nineteenth century, almost anyone could be a teacher as long as he or she had completed a level of education slightly above that of their pupils. The emergence of a formal school system throughout the 19th century carried with it both a demand for more and better trained teachers. The pathway to teaching branched in two main directions—preparation at a research university or at a regional comprehensive institution. The prestige enjoyed by research universities made it attractive to prospective practitioners of all sorts. However, research universities focused more on theory than on practice. Although these institutions welcomed the steady stream of tuition-paying students seeking to become teachers, they did not, as a rule, prepare highly qualified teachers who could both master the content of their chosen area of emphasis and practice the skills to help students succeed in school. (more…)
Darren Stowell is the CEO of ActivEd, a Portland based education company developing online content for k-3 classrooms that get kids moving, while developing fundamental reading and math skills. He’s spent 15 years in the education space, most notably as a senior leader with both Teach For America and Kaplan. He lives in NE Portland with his wife and two young boys.
As a lifelong advocate for public education, a father of two boys and an avid athlete, I have experienced the many effects physical activity and inactivity can have on people—most importantly kids. Through my work as an educator working with communities around the country, one thing that holds true is that physically active kids enjoy themselves more and perform better in school.
I became acutely aware of that truth over the last few years with my four-year-old son, Isaac. Isaac is an incredible little boy, with a hunger for learning and a commitment to squeezing every second out of every day. At first, we saw this energy as a boy “just being a boy,” but after our second son was born, we started to understand that Isaac’s energy and his need to be active throughout the day was related to his unique learning style. (more…)
We all know that to best serve Oregon’s kids, we must create an integrated education system from birth through early adulthood. We also know that one of the strongest predictors of children’s school success is parent and family engagement. While most of us have known this intuitively for a long time, it is now clear that how we engage parents, families, and other caring adults is absolutely essential. As an example, I am heartened to see the Oregon Education Investment Board lists parent and family engagement as one of its top five priorities for education in Oregon.
Early childhood practitioners get this. They do a remarkable job of engaging and involving parents in every aspect of their work—from home visits and encouraging reading with children at home, to decision-making in the school and classroom and providing basic supports and tools. They build this into their practice because it works, and because the children are much more likely to succeed. (more…)
Lois Cohen is President of Lois D. Cohen Associates, a full-service communications firm. In 2005, she developed the School-based Outreach Program, a program that educates students—our future civic, community and business leaders—about the importance of projects being initiated in their communities and having project team members participate in age appropriate, hands-on educational activities. The School-based Outreach Program introduces students to the importance of civic responsibility, the complexity of public projects, and it builds community awareness and goodwill for these projects.
I have always had an interest in working with children. I often tell people that, when I eventually retire, I want to spend the majority of my time reading to and/or teaching children to read. When I started the unique School-based Outreach Program in 2005, initially for the Oregon Department of Transportation, we focused on increasing public awareness of important projects or initiatives by connecting with our future leaders and future members of the workforce—students. Since that time, we have worked with more than 3,500 students throughout the state of Oregon to impart an awareness of public and private projects, inculcate a sense of civic awareness and civic responsibility among students, develop an awareness of the various careers and associated educational paths aligned with each project, and introduce a fun, age-appropriate hands on activity to extend the students’ learning experience.
I strongly believe that students are ambassadors to their families and communities. Much of what students learn in school goes home to their parents. Connecting with students via public involvement or outreach creates a linear line of communication that will connect information from classes students attend to their families at home. Students represent an important segment of the community, as they are the ones who will grow up to ultimately lead their families, our communities, our civic institutions, and businesses. (more…)
Tyler Nice has been teaching for over ten years in the Springfield School District. He started his career at Hamlin Middle School. Tyler is currently teaching economics, government and history in the Social Studies department at Thurston High School.
“I know that we haven’t always agreed on every issue thus far, and there are surely times in the future when we will part ways. But I also know that every American who is sitting here this evening loves this country, and wants it to succeed. That must be the starting point of every debate we have in the coming months, and where we return after those debates are done. That is the foundation on which the American people expect us to build common ground.”
- Barack Obama, State of the Union Address, Tuesday, February 4, 2009
I remember watching the State of the Union address in the late winter of 2009. A paragraph toward the tail end of the speech caught my attention. The message was poignant and powerful. I have thoughts of the sentiment often in the years since. The message is that we have competing visions for success. We can focus on the competing methods, or we can focus on the ultimate goal: a safe and prospering nation for all. (more…)
As a first generation Cambodian American student, I had a difficult time believing that I was capable of handling advanced placement (AP) courses in high school. I was overwhelmed with feelings of fear and self-doubt: “Should I sign up for an AP class? Do I belong there? Will I be able to handle the work? What happens to me if I fail?”
During my junior year, my guidance counselor noticed that I was getting good grades in my other classes and wondered why I wasn’t challenging myself with more rigorous coursework. She encouraged me to put aside my fear of failure and enroll in my first advanced placement course, AP Government. This course not only inspired my later work in policy, it also served as a gateway to other AP courses that boosted my confidence, pushed my critical thinking, and prepared me for college-level work.
Education research affirms my experience. Two landmark studies conducted by researchers at the University of Texas found that “students who took one or more AP tests and courses had higher college GPAs, earned more credit hours, and were more likely to graduate in four years or fewer.”[i]
In Federal Way Public Schools (Washington’s eighth largest school district), Superintendent Rob Neu and Assistant Superintendent Josh Garcia took this research to the next level by implementing Academic Acceleration in 2010, an advanced placement policy that works by automatically enrolling students in grades 6-12 into advanced classes when they score proficient or better on the state exams. For example, if students meet the standard for math, they are automatically enrolled in an advanced math course that their high school offers. (more…)
The spring of 1978 proved to be a pivotal time shaping my career. These were the ten weeks I completed my student teaching at a small rural high school in Colton, Washington.
Fortunately, I was taught and mentored by a marvelous master language arts teacher, Diana Carlson. Our first meeting was memorable. “Mr. Jamison, I have good news for you. In the coming weeks you will become the Language Arts Department at Colton High School.”
With thirty-five years of distance and perspective since that spring, and wonderful experiences along the way, I am deeply grateful for the high expectations and rigorous regime framed by this fine educator. Diana required me to teach four different grade levels of high school English, business communication, a social studies class, and to assist in directing the high school play after hours. Working fifty to sixty hours a week, I planned, created, delivered, evaluated…breathed, ate, laughed, fretted and lived… with these students and classrooms consuming my life.
We all know the importance of strong induction and mentorship supports for our newest professionals. While I benefitted the following year from an equally strong teacher who mentored me in my first full-time teaching job in Independence, lately I have looked back on that experience in Colton for an entirely different reason. Increasingly, I am concerned we are not adequately serving and supporting Oregon’s rural schools. (more…)
Tim Nesbitt writes on public affairs, has served as an adviser to Govs. Ted Kulongoski and John Kitzhaber, and is past president of the Oregon AFL-CIO. He writes an opinion column for The Oregonian on alternate Tuesdays. This column was originally posted to OregonLive.com on April 30, 2013 and can be found in its entirety here.
A few hours after Oregon House Democrats failed to pass a tax increase for high-income individuals and corporations last week, I mentioned to a staffer for one of their members that an alternative revenue package might now be in order. But when I suggested shaving personal income tax deductions by 5 percent as a better way to meet their revenue goal, the staffer surprised me by saying, “not 5 percent of my deductions.” And, having listened to the Democrats’ pleas for more revenue to save our schools, my response was just as emphatic: “Then it’s not worth it to you to pay more for schools — that’s the problem!”
This is the issue that we have yet to resolve at the state level. As I wrote in my last column, the message implicit in the House Democrats’ revenue package was that some services, such as schools, are so important that someone else should pay for them. Perhaps I oversimplified. The Democrats’ argument is that when it comes to getting back what we’ve lost — teachers, school days or shop classes — we should turn to those who used to pay more and are now paying less to support schools and services (insert your least favorite corporations here) and those who have benefited most from our economy (variously defined as the top 1 to 3 percent of income earners). That approach is arguably fair but decidedly limited if we want to secure the funding we need for our education system.
Darcy Bedortha is an Oregon IDEA Sr. Organizing Fellow, a high school English teacher and long time advocate for youth and social justice. She lives and works in Prineville, Oregon.
My personal and educational path wanders from deeply rural Central Oregon to the urban streets of Portland, from a brush with homelessness to completion of a second Masters degree. I have worked in public education, in mental health facilities, with homeless youth and with privileged families. Each of these experiences is part of who I am today, and each voice informs my work as a community organizer and educator.
It’s with great pleasure that I write to inform the Chalkboard community about two upcoming events in the Eugene/Springfield area that are worthy of your attention.
The Oregon Innovation Tour provides participants an opportunity to observe four programs doing meaningful work with young people. May 1-3 in Eugene, the tour highlights the Ganas program at Kelly Middle School, the Coop Family Center, Edison Elementary School and the Academy of Arts and Academics.
Running alongside the tour is a free public forum on “The Future of Education in Oregon.” This is a dynamic opportunity for a conversation that needs to be had across our state and I hope you’ll consider attending. (more…)