So my name is Barbara Morgan-Flemming that’s B A R B A R A, M O R G A N – F L E M I N G and I’m from Texas Tech University.
I think may times when we’re thinking about curriculum we think of it as a document and that often makes sense instead as a classroom teacher to think about it in terms of events. Um that we can talk about say the mathematics curriculum K-13 but the way that a child is going to experience that is in daily oral math or centers or worksheets or lectures. Um and we want to make sure that those who spoken of not just as instruction, but also as curriculum. Um that we look at those in a way to make them curricular dense. Um and that we we look at them with an idea toward if there’s 20 minutes used up there daily is there 20 minutes worth of curriculum. So an event implies an an audience and a content and and a time and also um an understanding of the audience in terms of whether or not they’re learning what it is that you have there. So you could think of curriculum text as you know I say document written material and curriculum events are interactive performance.
Well the the the idea of audience in teaching is one that interests me. There are several audiences I would say first of all. There’s the the future audience um there’s the audience of the of the public, but I think what we mean more particular when we talk about curriculum is the audience of the children. Um that are are in the room. I come out of a tradition of of uh performance centered folk lore, which is what I did before I became a teacher. And what that involves is the kind of performance but it’s not the kind where you just have someone say uh on a stage doing a a production where the script is written in advance and the audience is just passively listening. What performance centered folk lore was looking at were oral forms that were sort of jointly constructed. Um that um in Lord’s work um there was a question that folk lorist cared a whole lot about and I don’t know if any body else did but um about epic singers. And one theory said that they were working from memorized texts and another said that uh no they were just making it up as they went along. And so Lord really watched singers closely and what he realized was that they had a whole lot of formulas of line and half line and story. But that they would never perform the same way twice uh and that it was the audiences attention and and needs and things of that nature that would that would affect the performance. And so that’s what I think of of audience in teaching. The teacher still has to have in mind what is the curriculum and where are we going. Uh but have an idea that you know uh Johnny’s dog just had puppies and there are 5 of them and if I want to teach you know multiplications of 5 wh you know I might go with that or or something else that has happened.
Um I think of of teaching very much as performance. Again some because of my background of of being in folk lore before I became a teacher and I think when you’re a first year teacher you sort of draw on anything you possibly know to to try to survive. Uh so when I faced a class of 5th graders for the first time what I realized was you know I saw it in terms of a folk lorist that I was having a lot of trouble getting access to the floor uh that there were uh many constructive constructions and they’re going on simultaniously. Uh those sorts of things. And uh so it was very natural for me to look at at teaching that way. Uh when I started reading research of teaching it was very surprising to me sometimes not to see uh much about uh the orality of teaching for example. I saw a whole lot about teacher thinking, and then a whole lot about teacher’s lesson plans rather written documents. But to me teachers live or die by their mouth and there wasn’t much about about that. And so that’s where some of my work has has drawn me is is to look at the performance of text. You know we can all say ok you should teach long division, uh but we’ve seen long division taught uh in ways that are are folk lore performance and what not. I think the best example was that I had a a I was the University supervisor and we had a student teacher in with a cooperating teacher who was just wonderful. Uh and the student teacher was struggling and his lesson plans said um uh interview each other then make a book. And we felt well that’s a little under planned. But you know we felt that that’s what we would have written in our lesson plans too so we said let’s go ahead and go with that. Well he got up in front of the room of a 4th grade class and he said in this very quiet voice that didn’t get kids lookin at him or anything and he said uh interview each other when you’re done we’ll make a book. And then he sat down. Well you know you can pretty much guess what that looked like. Uh and then after that the the cooperating teacher sat him down and uh she sort of modeled the performance for him. She said well you could say like I might have somebody you know and and then she immediately takes this dramatic posture. You know ok so I might say and bring a kid up with me and I’d say ok now you’ve seen all those interviews who have you seen interviewed? You know sports stars, and things like that and what are they asked and what are they telling. And then I would model this and she’s walking around and doing all this dramatic stuff and then I would put some questions on the board and we would see who we would ask and and that was the performance piece. Now both of them might have written you know interview each other when you’re done we’ll make a book. But she knew how to turn that into performance and he didn’t.
One of the hard things about performance is how you teach it uh to to student teachers and and that I would say is a lot of what I would call the craft or artistic knowledge of of teaching. That really needs to be built in the side. I mean you can have students giving lessons to one anther and things of that sort but that’s a very false setting because they don’t, the audience is not right. Um and uh one of the difficulties in in teaching performance in schools is the uh you’re having to to perform the the curriculum but you’re also having to to manage the audience. And and those two things together are one of the most difficult. So I think what happens is that most of us learn that uh some by watching other teachers uh and some we learn it um in our first years of teaching of the kids. Uh it’s time when when mentoring would seem to be very helpful um but often we don’t put um people together according to their performance style. I was a mentor teacher for years and um my principle came in one year and she said I just hired a new second grade teacher and I want you to make him just like you. Which was you know kind of worried about. Anyway uh I walked into see him and he was very careful and very strict pathed and very uh you know formal. And I thought you know he would never teach like I do. Uh and uh that I could help him but that that his watching me teach would be less than helpful. He’s never gonna get up in front of them and go guys! You know uh so he needed I tried to put him in touch with with people who were very good with performance in the way that he was. Um and I think we don’t pay that much attention to that sometimes. Often if a teacher is a a very good performer one of the difficulties is we often do learn it um sort of by ourselves with kids. And so we’re not very good at articulating it. Um you see some teachers who are just masterful. One second grade teacher I knew and she had a student teacher in there too, and she could even do the the the singing, uh transitions, and she never raised her voice. And the kids would be doing 37 things at once and then she would just start singing this you know we’re going to lunch song and the kids would sing we’re going to lunch while they’re putting things away and I swear they all finished the last bar in line ready to go. You know and I was just on my feet uh uh applauding. Now if you did I ask her how did you do that how did you learn it? Oh well you know you just kind of if you like the kids and you know. It took her, she could articulate it that wasn’t what she was use to doing, um and the student teacher in the room actually had a very hard time because sometimes she would try to say exactly the same you know almost like a formula. Um and uh it didn’t have magical properties for her. So I think that is one of the most difficult things about um teaching someone how to teach is that and I think that’s sometimes why students feel tricked because we we put em through this whole program where they write lesson plans and they take tests and they read books and then we put them in a classroom where they have to talk all day. Uh and we haven’t really taught that part of it. Uh and that’s hard.
One of the things about teaching performance uh that’s different from any other kinds of performance is that teachers perform in audiences where that are together for a long period of time and where the people know one another. If you look at you contrast it with say a stand up comedian who comes in from the outside and leaves. Um and the other thing about teaching is the moral dimension, dimension of teaching. That that you have to have the good of each child uh at the center of your performance. Uh so if something might be funny but it would hurt you know the butt of the joke you don’t do that. Uh the same thing something might be funny but might take you completely away from the curriculum and you don’t do that. Um but because it’s relational relational, who you are has a great deal to do with what you perform you know. I tend to very uh sort of uh face first as a learner and tend to launch into things and then later on reason whether or not that was a good idea. And my children would get to know that, you know sometimes I would you know be in the middle of something and go you know that just really didn’t work did it you know. Uh and uh they could realize that they could take risks also with that. Um but one of my favorite teachers who was you know a much better teacher than I am was one of those they use to call them straight back teachers because they have that that posture. And uh she would come into her classroom and has would, she taught first grade and she would just say I expect my children will behave. And they did. You know she just had this eligance and uh formality about her. Uh I always think of Eisner while I’m thinking about this, that that it’s not necessarily you know in a sense that lectures are generally bad and discussions are necessarily good. If you talk about teaching as an art uh then it’s seems like you have to have uh understanding for style and for genre. And we would never say that all realism is art and no surealism surealism is. We wouldn’t ask what’s more effective painting or sculpture. But in teaching I think we get tied up into form much more than into individual talent. Uh and I think that’s something where the teacher comes in. That you know I tend toward uh whole language and and open education, but if I had to choose between a bad whole language teacher and a good direct instruction teacher for my child, I’d go with the good direct instruction teacher every time. And we may in fact hope that a child in 13 years of schooling would encounter many types of teachers. Um so to me it’s a matter of quality not form.
Yeah that’s often a question you know are teachers born or made. And I think like most questions probably a little bit of both. I’ve often wondered when I hear people say that one of the best predictors of teachers’ success is that verbal score of SAT’s and thing that they’re really is a heavy verbal component in teaching. Uh but at the same time um I think that teaching well when you see people who just go into a classroom and it’s not that they can automatically know how to teach. Uh it may be that the learning curve is is you know uh faster for some than than for others. Uh may have to do with how comfortable you are um speaking to people. I’ve always done a lot of oral forms and so when I went into teaching I was very comfortable with the idea that I would would speak and people would listen. Um but the the way that you have to uh encourage the speech of the children the way you have to measure whether there’s interest there, or is it time to go on, um the way you really do jointly construct meaning orally, is not something I think anyone is born to. It’s also something that’s very hard to teach. So it’ kind of a combination of experience and probably initial dis disposition. And then uh some learning uh I think what we can do as teacher educators is at least prepare students to uh learn how to learn in classrooms. And that may be the most important aspect.
Um that was one of the first things that I noticed when I went into a classroom was that I wasn’t sure just what it was that I was suppose to do. Uh I think you can find it in curriculum guides, you can find it in in teachers editions, but the importance of that is to understand that that’s not a script. That’s that is content. Uh so that you know alright it’s my responsibility to do uh this or or to teach this kind of writing. Um and I think it’s important to do that because otherwise what we end up with is a you know no continutiy between grades and it can be very difficult for the kid that’s going through uh K-12. So that’s one component of it um is just trying to find out what it is that’s that’s uh part of the curriculum. (interruption) Yeah I think that that mainly you can find it in in curriculum guides and talking with other teachers. And and in talking with with people at your school. But what’s most important about that is that the teacher make it their own. Oh I know what I was thinking about. (interruption) and when we’re talking about how it is that you learn what the curriculum is and and what it is that you should do within a classroom uh it seems that there’s a tension there between either I’m the teacher I can do whatever I want or we’re doing page 24 today because we did page 23 yesterday. And that’s the tension that that and that’s also where the creativity of the teacher comes. That we are bound by some idea of curriculum. What I always do did planning nad what I encourage my uh pre-service teachers to do is to take all the curriculum documents that they have from a particular district or whatever and do first of all a yearly plan just to take a real quick um slant at you know how do I want to sequence this. And then look at how the subjects go together. I like to integrate curriculum so that’s one of the ways, even to color code them or put them on the floor. But really internalize that curriculum because it’s not that you have to tell students that they’re learning how to use a semi colon, but I have to have that in mind that somewhere along here they need to be doing that. And that’s what I mean about something being dense, um in terms of curriculum. Um that um if I’m going to take 20 minutes of a students time um then I might have 1 thing that I’m teaching there or I might have 4 or 5 um that reinforce one another. And so if I’m going to do a unit on that involves writing then I could see how I could pull in social studies and mathematics and as much as I possibly could. That does a couple of things. First of all um I think when we help students relate knowledge it sticks better. Um but also one of the hardest things about teaching is that there’s not enough time. And if you have 10 minutes for this and 10 minutes for this and 10 minutes you know you are running out of 10 minutes long before you’ve run out of of things that you want to do.
Time is one of those things that I think that we we don’t really stress with pre-service teachers enough. Because that’s really one of the resources that you have. They have to think about it in several ways. One is I get children in August and they leave in May. Alright, and what should happen to them during that time. And it’s very important to keep your eye on that ball too so that you don’t um just go on and on about something that that may not be that worthwhile. And the other thing is um is the importance of planning. Um that doesn’t mean that you have to have lesson plans in a particular form. But sometimes I think what novice teachers assume is that things will kind of automatically happen. And they may and they may not. They may for some children and not for some other children. So again there’s that tension, you know sometimes when we want to make sure we are doing the curriculum we do 47 worksheets because then I can check off each of them. Or uh I had one student teacher who was doing paperback puppets with 8th graders. I came in and they were very happy with making their paper back puppets, and I said ok and what are we doing with this. And she said well we’re just making them. And I said well that might be alright for 5 you know how long you know and she was spending hours. So I said well you know if you’re gonna take hours then if we write scripts that go with these, if we begin to to do budgets or or something like that. But we need to use something with that if we you know um it’s different than if you’re you’re um just doing something you know if you’re teaching art that would be one thing, but but she wasn’t really even getting into the arts curriculum wise.
Um I think that we often do get caught up in in activity when we’re when we’re teaching. Especially early on and and there’s no harm in that because events can also be seen as as activities. Um but there there really has to be always be that idea again of how much time is this taking, what curriculum can I get in there. And the only way that I know to do that with new teachers, it’s hard even if you’re an experienced teacher but you’re moving grades. Because one of the things that that you need to do is you sole internalize the curriculum. Uh that if I know we’re doing photosynthesis I know thousands of ways that I can bring that in and that means I can handle that teachable moment when somebody brings something and I can say ok this ties in here. Um it’s that that allows be maybe to stop everything that I’m doing and go with this. But that’s not done randomly. That’s done with ok I really wanted to get at this difference between fiction and nonfiction and we’re right there and we’re ready. You know so that’s what I’m going to do now. Um you also have to um you do embed curriculum in terms of materials and activities. And sometimes you have to realize that that hasn’t worked. I’m thinking of an example um uh I taught 5th grade and so we would do a lot with the constitution. And one thing that had always been very successful is I would teach a science fiction unit and then we would uh go to another planet and we would have to set up a government there and so we could go through all all of that stuff about the branches of government and and who needs, what you need from a government and what you get from a government and all of those kinds of discussions. And that as I say had always worked very well. And then I had one class that just hated science fiction. So we’d read a little bit of science fiction and it was obvious that what I had been counted on had to carry some of the the the difficult content was actually itself going to be a different problem than the content. Um and so I have to switch. Now it may have looked like I switched entirely you know if you were looking. Um but actually the content was the same. With this class I had a class of just absolute realists and uh so I used Supreme Court cases. And civil rights and they were very interested in that. Now to someone else those might look like extremely different uh lessons, to me they look like instances of the Bill of Rights. Uh and that you could put those in different activities, you could put those even in different subject matters. Uh but that one way or another we were gonna get there.
Uh one of the other things about curriculum knowledge that I think is interesting about teaching is that it’s often distributed um that um I noticed this when I left teaching for awhile and came I tried to plan without being in my classroom. And I found it was very difficult to even think about uh what I was going to do for the year. Uh what I found was that I needed to be in the room, walking around, and then when I would notice that there was the water source that I would quench the fire, that that would be where I would do science. And then when I thought of that and started putting things together, then my ideas about activity and how we can run this and what we would do uh began to come to the fore and sometimes materials too that you have that when you begin to to to uh bring out uh you notice. I think the first time I noticed this was when I was a first year teacher and people would show up in my room you know when teachers are trying to help you which is very important for first year teachers to know. Uh teachers tend to be very uh oblique about advice and they tend to be very uh reticent about approaching another one’s classroom. Uh and if you’re not very careful you’ll send them away, you know if I act like yeah I already know that I just came from the University, it they’ll disappear. Um but if you’re willing to listen uh people will just kind of show up and what would happen is somebody would come with their unit or with their bulletin board and in giving that to me they would sort of then talk about the curriculum, you know sort of embed it in the things that they that they had. Um so I think often we were trying to talk to teachers, getting them to talk about curriculum. One of the mistakes me make is to pull them out of their classroom. Um and then um I think because of the distribution of knowledge, which I think you have to do as a teacher, you cannot keep everything in your head all the time, um that you might not get as as good an understanding of what they know as if we were to to come into the room and sit down.
That’s one of my one of my worries now is that uh the doing of teaching and the policy making of teaching are getting farther and farther apart. And I think that’s a danger for a variety of reasons. Uh for one thing, the people closest to the phenomena are teachers and if that knowledge is not informing policy then we’re going to go down some incredible uh blind alleys. Many of which you’ve been down repeatedly. Uh so that worries me that sometimes we have curriculum policies being created um and then teachers trying to do what they think is right anyway. And so sometimes you you don’t get either done well. You don’t get the policy administered as the policy makers have thought and you don’t get the policy that teachers want either. So I think we really do need to get around the table. It’s not that teachers should by themselves make policy, uh but teachers much be a strong voice in that. And I think there’s often a reluctance for teachers. Especially sometimes very experienced teachers who feel like they’ve been down that road before and that it’s Charlie Brown with the football, you know that I’m going to go in this meeting and you say that I’m going to have an effect and then you’re going to do what you wanted to anyway and they just feel like the football is repeatedly pulled out from in front of them. Uh but I think that that it’s very important for teachers to take action outside of their classroom. That they serve on the state committees, that they look at the textbook adoptions, that they really be part of the conversation, as difficult as that is.
It’s difficult sometimes to know what the role of the textbook is in the classroom. Um I, as they say came out of open education, and there was a tendency for us to think that we would just write the whole curriculum. Uh and do integrated units for everything. Um what I found my first year of teaching is that sometimes I’d been up all night making the the unit and I was so tired that if the student would ask me a question I would bite his head off. Then I realized there might be some some good in my actually getting some sleep also. Um so what I try to tell my pre-service teachers is that the textbooks there are there and are potentially helpful to you, but that you’re the author of your teaching, not that the textbook is in charge. Um so to go through them and look at what’s strong in this textbook, um what pieces of it can I use. Um I know there was one uh unit in mathematics where I threw out the regular textbook um but the and the enrichment and problem solving supplements were really good. Uh and so taught out of that. So again we can get into one of these bionary textbooks are are are everything or or they’re evil. Uh and actually they’re a resource that needs to be used well by a competent teacher uh making good decisions for the kids.
There’s a real difference between watering down a curriculum and then making a curriculum in accessible. And that I think is the distinction that we have to make. Again we get into these false dicotomies of either here’s where I’m teaching and if they can get it fine if not fine, or oh these students, poor kids they can’t possibly get here you know let me stop trying. And again good teaching is between those two, and there’s a tension between those two. And what it means is not so much that I drop the curriculum but that I need to to know uh almost an infinite number of ways to present that curriculum. And uh it’s one of those things that’s not particularly elegant. I tell my student teachers sometimes you just keep trying things until you see the light came on. Uh and realize that that will be different for different children. Um it’s also I think one of the the things that we have to get over is this idea that uh we can rigidly sequence the curriculum, that everyone learns it in the in the same way, sort of like stepping stones. Um now now we’re realizing that no two brains are alike, so this idea um that someone can’t learn X before they learn Y has to be brought into question. Um so what I think is important, whether we’re working with with special needs children or or children who come from cultures different from our own, is that we learn as much as we possibly can but that we also work closely in relation with that child and and with that child’s family to realize if we’re making some connections. And understand, give the child room to to surprise us.
One of the things that that worries me now in in Texas where I’m teaching is that there seems to be a real concentration on on the purity uh we think of it in terms of sticks and carrots, there’s a whole lot of stick and very few carrots. I happen to think that most teachers want to teach well and that most students want to learn. So that to me it’s a matter of of facilitating uh more than than than threatening. I’m not sure people are productive uh um when they’re under threat. Um which when we’re saying to kids you won’t be promoted if you don’t pass this test, you won’t be able to graduate, uh and to principals and teachers that you know if you’re scores if they’re bad it will be published and uh you know you will be a in one or another way punished. Uh I think that’s a very different approach than trying to to figure out what it is that that we can do to enable good teaching and good learning to take place. But having said that I do believe in accountability. One of the things that I hear, I haven’t lived in Texas long, was that some kids use to get written off. And I think that it is important that we make clear uh that all kids can learn and all kids should learn. But I think that we can often uh do that with uh uh oh again with incentives. To say if you’d like to go back to school you can get a raise or uh enriching classroom with with more books and more access to to interesting kinds of things. Uh I can trust that with Arizona where I taught and where we had sometimes NEH grants that brought in you know writers into our schools to do a week of of writers workshop and and things of that so it really got teachers sort of uh excited again. And uh I think this is one of the things we’re really gonna have to concentrate on in the near future with the the teacher shortage. Uh that that we’ve always been concerned about teachers leaving the field, I think that’s going to become a a more important issue. But it’s not just teachers that officially leave, some teachers sort of unofficially leave the field and they’re they’re sort of working at half speed. Uh sticks don’t much help that uh they’ll figure out how to to get around that. What you really need is some way to re-engage that teacher. Either through her own learning or uh having her take place in policy making, or something like that. Uh it’s harder, but I think in the end it’s effective.
Uh accountability is one of the the hardest things I think for us to think about now. Uh because teachers should be accountable, as I say it’s not alright with me for someone to say this is my classroom these are my kids I can do whatever I want. Uh but if the by the same token teachers must be given a tremendous amount of of autonomy in order to do the job that they need to do. Uh I think the best way uh or the only way I know of to have that kind of autonomy is that it needs to be quite local. Uh that there’s no way I believe uh to remotely assist teaching. Um teachers can figure out all kinds of ways to to get around tests or whatever. Especially uh tests that are written and as I’ve said before teaching is an oral genre, then someone might be able to write very well about it and not do it. Um the same thing even with with performance, if you’re just in there for an hour um you don’t see the teaching that takes place through time. So the only way I know to really assess teaching is at the site level. Um and I would say uh assessing teacher with teacher uh and uh a lot uh at the principal or instructional leader uh and then with parents to. Uh that if we can have everyone concerned and and teaching become more public then I’d think it’d becomes more accountable. Uh and we kind of get away with that with an idea that we could have some kind of objective instrument that would weed out the bad teachers and I’m not convinced that it does that.
I think what we get with high stakes testing is we get almost generational effects. If you look at the tests you know the TOSS is one example in Texas, there’s nothing particularly wrong with that test. I think that if any of us could look at it we would say you know you ought to be able to do that. Uh what happens through time especially if there’s a high stakes nature to it um is that the test itself becomes the curriculum. I I like Medallis’s work very much on the the principles of the of uh high stakes testing. And one them he talks about the minimums become maximums. You know we could have a minimum competency test and what is not on the test uh tends to be out of the curriculum. One of the things we see often in Texas now I hear reports on what the (cough) we see uh almost no social studies or science being taught in the elementary school. Uh they’re not tested uh. And then you begin to get certain uh sort of tricks for testing. Uh there are some that are past among teaching, teachers called uh you know toss testing tricks. Uh one of them like to do uh figure out what the main idea of uh of a paragraph is that you would circle every noun and then tally whenever it comes up and the one that has the most tallies is what it’s about. And what that continues to do again in a matter of time, if you spend all you time doing those kinds of things that’s exactly what doesn’t translate into to uh sort of authentic tasks. Uh I took one home to my husband who’s an engineer and it was about how to do word problems. You would underline the IER words and highlight this and do that and he was appauled. He said you know there’s not there’s no math in this. Now again that wouldn’t be a problem, it’s a matter of time about whether or not that’s a problem. Uh if you’re just doing that sort of to get ready for the test then that’s not a big issue. It depends on how much time of the curriculum that’s being taken up. I had one of my graduate students who was a who was student teaching in the third grade and has said that they had like of 16 of 24 of the 3rd graders had flunked the pre test on the Toss the reading test. Uh and so they were spending all their time uh doing test taking skills. And I asked her I said Jaelynn these are children who can read but the form fo the test or something is unfamiliar so don’t know they can’t read. I said that’s what I would go for. You know uh both just in terms of what would be best for the children and best for the curriculum. But probably also best for the test. Um and I think what happens when teachers get very stressed and principles get stressed and people complain even that property values go down in in neighborhoods where school scores are not high. There are all kinds of pressures for to bear and uh uh people start then uh doing things that are very unnatural to them um and uh are probably not good for kids.
Because teaching is is done often so much away from other adults and you’re in the room with with your students there has to be a component of consciously teaching yourself about your practice. It’s not like in other things where you have a long apprenticeship and where someone can can be there watching you and I think we need to have more of that in teaching. But even if we do uh if you’re going to get better each year as a teacher which I think is a commitment that we need to make uh you need to learn in a variety of ways. You need to continue to use the universities for what they can give you and continue with your own reading and continue with the own your own hobbies, intellectual hobbies that you are passionate about. But you also have to rigorously look at your own teaching. Now you can do that sometimes with video taping or with buddies coming in um but you can also do it I think after awhile as a teacher you develop this kind of way of watching yourself. Uh and uh try to to see how the lesson’s going. One of the attitudes that I think is very important is being able to do that well is to be able to separate you equal from your practice. Uh sometimes with novice teacher they think if that was a bad lesson I must be a bad person. Um and you have to separate those two so but I could look at my lesson and go Morgan I think that was a clean miss you know no one got anything out of that last ten minutes. Uh and still realize that I’m an ok person, I need to go back, I need to re think. Um and almost have an attitude of hoping it’s your own fault, which is counter intuitive. Uh but if it really is the kids are watching too much tv or aliens have taken over their bodies or all the possible explanation I can’t do anything about that. But if it’s my pacing was off, this wasn’t a book that they enjoyed, um I have complete control over that. Uh so some of it is is really looking at your practice um as you could say as a piece of art. Uh and considering yourself the author of that or the crafts person of that and saying what pieces are missing what pieces are strong and what can I do about that? Uh but you have to consciously do that. Because you can enter your classroom and leave it 30 years later and not necessarily learned much at all. Um and uh much of the learning, even if you’re in a place where where learning is available, has to be self driven. Uh so you really need that component of saying that I need to know more about mathematics or I need to watch Liona when she’s doing this because she’s really good, or I need to get somebody in here to watch me because I don’t know what I’m doing in these cooperative groups. But you have to remove ego from that first of all or you’re weakness are the things you’ll hide and that’s exactly where you need help.
I’ve never seen a clear distinction between theory and practice. Um I did a lot of my research as a classroom teacher, and even now that I’m I’m a teacher educator I still don’t see um the the divide that often we make. To me a teacher deciding which book should I give Tommy now is a decision that’s thick with theory, literacy theory, theory of the curriculum, theories of development. What happens in teaching is those are often implicate rather than overt. And that often isn’t a problem um um I think teachers don’t need to overt there reason every decision they make there’s no time to do that. But we need to have the capacity to do that when we run up against something that’s difficult. Um it may be that I’m giving these books and they’re learning and everything is going fine, but when I give a book to a child that and nothing happens with it or it sail through the air and hits me in the face, uh then I need to to be able to reason um and look at why was I giving that book, was that a good decision, what other what else could I do? So I think this this false divide um really causes a lot of problems for us and I think that it’s more uh rather than uh uh a difference in thinking it’s a difference in discourse. Um that if you listen to a philosopher and you listen to a teacher they may have very different discourses. Uh but they’re talking about many of the same questions. Um and the solution to that I think again is is a very big table and everybody around it. Um talking about specific instances and different ways to look at that.
Uh coming to teaching from you know a background ground in folk lore uh it can give me a little bit of different idea uh uh of what was going on there. Um it seems to me especially when we’re trying to get at this idea of teacher knowledge um you know what is it that teachers know, you watch a teacher teach and you know that behind that practice there has to be a just incredible knowledge that’s made on the spur of the moment. Uh and yet it’s often difficult to to figure out a way that that’s articulated. Um some of the work that I’ve found interesting in in in sort of thinking about that is work on proverb. Um because what a proverb often is is a case of like is this and they’re often competing. Like is this a case of how the stitch in time saves nine or haste makes waste? And we night even argue with the two of those. So often what teachers you know what it sounds like maxims or or that’s like Janet’s kid with the scissors for one thing there’s a story behind it, but also it brings in that situational appreciation that Handelberry talks about. Is this a case of um a child that needs to be engaged or this is a case of a child you should leave alone for a minute? And we could argue both of those um but often I think the way that that teachers do that is either talking about a particular child or um you know with a what Cowcheck calls it a colonel story where they might just give a sentence uh um and other teachers would know about that. That it sort of frames the situation in a particular way.
I think one of the reasons that I became a teacher and one of the reasons I stayed a teacher is that um well one of the the thing that is the moral core of ethic teaching is that the particular that if you’re entrusted with with these kids for this amount of time, you don’t get to write any of them off. Um and you can often see how that happens. Um I’ve seen well this kids can’t learn because of this or that one can’t learn because of that and then it’s ok for me to give up on it. I think part of what’s important to be successful as a teacher and also to be right as a teacher is to never allow yourself to do that. I sometimes tell my pre-service teachers that the most important thing in teaching uh there’s someone like you know intellect, probably the most important chacteristic is sheer tenacity. You know that I will hang in there. Uh now having said that it’s not enough just to be of good will you know that ok I will just care very much and I will keep trying. Um what a teacher needs to know is everything in the world and every possible way to put that together. Now we can’t quite get there but that’s the that’s the bar. Um because the larger your reperitoire and the better your understanding which is an understanding of cultural diversity uh and difference in learning style, also difference in terms of curriculum, um that you can put the child in a situation where they can construct meaning. If you only know one way to do that, you’re going to miss a lot of kids. So part of that continuing to learn as a teacher, preparing yourself to to be a teacher, is to really take seriously courses that may seem very theoretical. Courses on diversity, courses on special ed, courses on policy, courses on curriculum. That’s not irrelevant. Um it may be abstract, but when I’m trying to teach David I may pull on all of that, uh and what’s important I think ethical and what I get passionate about is that it is the job of the teacher to make sure that every child learns. And if that means that I need to figure out something myself that I need to figure out how to pull in other resources or whatever uh then I need to do that. Uh I think sometimes we’re reluctant to do that because we’re afraid we’ll fail. If I write the kid off in the beginning of the year I haven’t put in any effort. You know if I really try with everything in my being then Jerry doesn’t learn that may break my heart, but that’s tough. Uh and actually I think most of the time you’ll find the kid learns.