Wednesday, October 7, 2009

More on my life as an educator

This fall, I did some consulting for my local school district. I also keep in touch with fellow teaching friends. I read educational articles daily. I have not been able to give up my life as an educator even though I have technically retired. Hopefully, I will come to the point where I find my new role as an educator.

I find that I am still passionate about what I do, did, or hope to do in the field of education. I am not sure where that passion will take me over the next few years. I am open to discovering the journey.

From 2004 until 2008, I worked in teacher education at Colorado State University-Pueblo. In many ways, the days I spent at the University were among the happiest in my professional life. I loved many aspects of my job because I had to do many of the things I enjoy doing the most.

A grant in Teacher Quality Enhancement had been awarded to the Teacher Education Program at CSU-Pueblo. The emphasis of the grant was to create an endorsement that will allow teachers to be trained in teaching the linguistically diverse. I honestly could not believe that I had been hired for my "dream job."

Once I was settled into my very own office at the University, I read the grant and then asked myself, "Now what?" I then asked the associate dean, "What do you want me to do now that I have been hired?" Basically, her response was on the order of: we hired you to figure that out. My best advice came from my daughter Amy. After listening to me vent my frustrations about not knowing what to do next, she said, "Mom, I think you just have to treat it like a start-up job." Again, I thank God for Amy and the advice that she has given me over the years. Now I had a bit of clarity, and I also had a lot of freedom since all I really had to do was meet the objectives of the grant.

I learned much in the process of honoring the job I was hired to do. I had no idea how university systems worked. I had to learn that. I had no idea how to create a program that would be approved by both the University for which I worked and the State Department of Education. I learned how to do that too. I learned how to take the State Standards for an Endorsement in Linguistically Diverse Education and apply to them to objectives for courses that would be taught in our endorsement program. I learned how to create curriculum for a University program, and I learned how write University syllabi. Believe me, I had much help with this along the way. I read many books, many articles and did much research. I met with others who were experts in the area of LDE (Linguistically Diverse Education) to get their advice on what they thought should be included in the program.

I wasn't just hired to seek and secure the award of an endorsement at our University, but I was also hired to recruit students to take the new classes that were being created. I had to find people to teach the classes, and I had to prepare myself to teach some of the classes.

Most days, I loved my job. As with any job, there were frustrations. I became very aware of the limitations that a teacher education program faces when preparing students to teach. There are many issues that must be faced in teacher education. Many of those same issues had been there and had frustrated me when I was going through my own teacher education program before I was awarded my teaching certificate. Once I was a fully certified teacher, I really faced the inadequacies that are inherent in any teacher education program.

Because I have worked in teacher education, I certainly don't want to fix blame for teacher lack of preparation on all programs across the board. I do believe we have to see change in the way teachers are prepared and the way they are supported in their first few years of teaching. Recently, when I read this article in the Denver Post:

I believe Metro State is really leading the way in reform when it comes to teacher preparation and I applaud their courage and commitment.

I am also enclosing another article that I believe is a must read for all of us concerned with teacher education.