Globalizing Teacher Education

working with Salvadoran teachers on Scratch

Educating the next generation of teachers is very serious business.

Teacher candidates now spend two years to get their degree, during that time, they are spending more hours in the classroom and more time volunteering – this is wonderful, anything that gets teacher candidates into the classroom should be encouraged.

I think there is another step that we have not yet taken that needs to be considered. Is there a place for students to spend time learning first hand about education in other countries? Do our students need to develop a global perspective as they prepare for a career in our schools?

Students at an elementary school – San Jose las Flores, El Salvador

I would argue that this is really important and we should look for ways to make this happen.  A bit biased, I have been bringing students and teachers to different Latin American countries for over 20 years.

I have learned a great deal on these trips. I think the one thing that really sticks with me is that for students in Latin America, education is the way out of a cycle of poverty that in some cases stretches back centuries.

Popular education tradition in El Salvador – teaching children during the civil war

It is also really instructive to speak with the students in the countries we visit. We have done this on many trips and we find that many have the same goals as our own students with the caveat that they are very committed to bringing about positive change for their families and their country.

walking home for lunch

I think it is really important for educators just starting out to get this perspective. Societies can move out of poverty and the catalyst for this transformation is education.

There are parallels in our own schools. The last school that I worked at was in a poor section of Ottawa. Most of these families are trying to do the same thing as people in Latin America – improve their lives by taking advantage of what the education system offers.

There is so much more to learn, but this is a central point that can influence a career for a lifetime. Education is the key for so many people and teachers can change lives, here and in places we can’t even imagine.

Let’s find a way to open the world up to our future educators.

 

A Key Element for Authentic Teacher Inquiry – Assessing and Learning from Student Work.

I am really enjoying the #notabookstudy quad blogging experience. What is really wonderful is that we are encouraged to blog and then to comment on other posts. It is great to see the conversation continue beyond the original post. The questions allow the writer to extend their thinking on the topic – something that is hard to do in a single post. Here are excerpts of some of the comments I am getting along with my responses – what a wonderful, meaningful dialogue! Thanks everyone. (my answers are in italics)

Do you think it’s more difficult to be introduced to a new idea, tool or strategy if teachers direct their own PD?

No, I don’t think it is hard to be introduced a new tool if PD is self-directed. Most of the useful things I have learned have been through self-direct PD. This should include conferences that I have chosen to go to and edcamps. There are a number of very effective ways to direct your own learning and I think we should always take advantage to these when they come up. I took part in MADPD last weekend. I thought this was a really good way to offer PD to teachers, I just wish there had been more participants. This is where conferences may still win out. You need to make a time and financial commitment when you go to a conference and therefore you tend to get more buy-in. Flipping from session to session on Youtube may not lead to any significant increase in the knowledge base of the participant.

 

As an addition to earlier thoughts in this blog, I add the following for contemplation – How can we support educators to examine student assessment data on an ongoing basis and to use that student data to drive their own professional learning and changes to classroom practice – which in essence, if research based, will lead to improved learning outcomes for students?

Thank you for the opportunity to reflect on the ideas in the blog and to contribute some thinking….I look forward to the continued conversation.

Thanks for your comments. This is a great question: “How can we support educators to examine student assessment data on an ongoing basis and to use that student data to drive their own professional learning and changes to classroom practice – which in essence, if research based, will lead to improved learning outcomes for students?”

There is always just so much you can get in one blog post. One point that I did not emphasize is teacher research. For really effective teacher inquiry to take place, teachers need to base their inquiry on what they see as the learning needs of their particular group of students. What I found while observing the teacher triads was that educators had a very good idea of the learning needs of their students. This may have happened simply through observation in combination with on-going assessment. The particular triad of teachers then agreed on what conclusions their observations were showing them. Then, and only then did they develop an inquiry question. For example, one group of junior math teachers decided, based on observations and data that their students had a poor understanding of the concept of zero. They then developed an inquiry to assist students to develop a better understanding of this concept. This process might seem pretty slow – the inquiry took several months to conclude, but it was certainly authentic and it had total teacher buy in as they had done the real work. I think we need to do more of this teacher-directed work and trust our teachers and administrators to come up with processes that puts educators in the driving seat when it comes to professional development.

Like you, I think the best PD for me has been the stuff that I have had a say in. When my colleagues and I can direct our learning, or when we arrive at a day without a written-in-stone agenda, I feel like I learn more!

Thanks for commenting Lisa. Very good to hear that your PD has been self-directed. I think you are very motivated and that is great to read about. I do think we need a cultural change where teachers are treated as real professionals and stay in control of their own learning. My experience as an administrator is that much of our PD is directed by others – we learn that this is the way and then we impose this on our teachers. That should not happen.

 

We are looking for learning partners!

I guess we need to take a new approach

We are just coming off of a major national campaign to revive our old schoolyard. We’re not sure of the results yet, but it has been a hard slog, encouraging support and voting every day. If we make it to the next round it will be by the skin of our teeth!

Here is the concept drawing that was developed for our yard - we will get this done!
Here is the concept drawing that was developed for our yard – we will get this done!

 

We have applied for grants throughout the fall, but this doesn’t seem to be the right approach. Grant writing takes a long time and usually the results are negative.

So, today, we start a new approach. We are going to promote all the great things about our school and our community and see who out there wants to work with us!

What do we have going for us?

We have great kids, totally engaged in learning, happy for what they have who display daily a love of learning and a joy for living.

We have a great, dedicated staff who really work hard with our kids. The results show in the provincial testing where are kids consistently score above provincial and board averages.

We have a great supportive community with all sorts of services for struggling families and for those who don’t speak much English or French. Right now, we have a cooperative daycare in our basement and a new community agency room on the second floor housed by groups connected to the school and open to finding ways to engage our parents in our school.

We are developing a vibrant makerspace through a generous donation from our superintendent. The makerspace is supported by an ‘innovations groups’ made up of profs from the university of Ottawa, student teachers, local entrepreneurs and a few principals. We don’t have much equipment yet, but we hope our group will come up with more resources as we look for second-hand lego and other materials.

Our kids are also mad about Minecraft!  We want our own server so we can run the program on Minecraft edu, safely for all our students.  They have great ideas on how this can be used for education and have done some great writing about how we can bring this into the classroom.

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We are running a terrific arts program.  The kids have all taken part in hip hop lessons and there is much more to come.  They have worked with a local artist to create a beautiful mural right in the entrance to our school.  The mural is an expression of how the students see the community – we are all really proud of this. We will go beyond hip hop and add music and storytelling as the year progresses.

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our mural and our artists

We are also experimenting with a computer lending program.  We have old Dell Netbooks that aren’t being used much anymore.  We are starting to lend these out to students and families for the year so that they can continue to work on programs like Raz Kids, Mathletics and Dreambox.  We need more of these machines to give out and we have to ensure that the machines are hooked up to the internet.

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looking for machines like this to send home

We are also working with our partners to develop a parent outreach program.  School Board in other jurisdictions like Hamilton-Wentworth and having lots of success offering parent workshops at the same time as they offer student tutoring and enrichment.  We would like to find a way to do this here.

So, are you interested in working with us?  We would make a great partner!