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Teacher character is more important than teacher technique.

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Presentation on theme: "Teacher character is more important than teacher technique."— Presentation transcript:

1 Teacher character is more important than teacher technique

2 Context of our Conversation Ever since the ’60’s, almost the entire emphasis in American public schools has been on academics. This is manifest in Content: the development of subject specific standards, and Method: the articulation of the California Standards for the Teaching Profession (CSTP’s) and the Teaching Performance Expectations (TPE’s)

3 Context of our Conversation Accountability: high-stakes standardized testing of the academic achievement of school students, and Accountability: only somewhat less high-stakes testing of the pedagogic knowledge of teacher candidates, the Teacher Performance Assessments (TPA’s), which measure only Instructional planning Assessment Adaptations of instruction and assessment for English learners and students with special needs

4 Context of our Conversation But, as we shall see, the State of California expects more than academic instruction, although that expectation is less loud, less visible, and not tested at all What I will suggest is that character education should be at the heart of teacher preparation And that, if it is, it will improve the chances for successful academic instruction

5 Historical Background First, a brief review of the role of character education in American schooling During the Colonial Period, all schools were “private” and all schools were religious; moral training was seen as more important than anything else During the period between the end of the War of 1812 and the outbreak of the Civil War --- say 1820 -1860 --- there were 3 main goals of what were now publicly funded schools:

6 Historical Background As the country committed to democracy, a radical thing to do, the public schools were committed to preparing young people for life in that new democratic way of life, by inculcating in them a belief in Democracy Capitalism Protestant Christianity

7 Historical Background In the response to the 2 nd Great Wave of Immigration, which ended with the outbreak of the World War I in 1914, public schools were devoted to “Americanizing” the children of immigrants. The “Cardinal Principles of Secondary Education” of 1918 emphasized not academics but morals and ethics:

8 Historical Background Cleanliness and good hygiene Contribution to family life; being an obedient and helpful child Using non-work time for healthy pursuits, not for drinking and gambling, etc. Obeying the law Learning a trade and becoming a responsible, conscientious worker

9 Historical Background The common thread: public schools are the public form of child-rearing The obligation to help form the character of the child was taken for granted by all school teachers, until The 1960’s: The Great Disruption Too many differing ethical standards, too much disagreement: public schools should stay out of the morals business

10 Historical Background Result: Schools attempted to become “value neutral” institutions where no point of view is privileged and all points of view are respected To put it another way, in our attempt to eliminate the morally unjustifiable standards of race discrimination and gender discrimination, we tried to remove all “absolute” standards, thereby throwing out the baby with the bathwater

11 Historical Background Result, con’t: Teachers now find themselves in the difficult position of trying to create positive, beneficial classroom environments without being able to depend on an institutional commitment to the principles that underlie “positive” and “beneficial.”

12 The Question Is there a way to help teacher candidates Understand that there are universal values Understand that their obligation as teachers is to help their students embrace and live by those universal values Develop good character in themselves so that they can be examples of good character to their students Develop ways to accomplish this without depending on the institution

13 California’s Requirements Education Code Section 233.5(a) Each teacher shall endeavor to impress upon the minds of the pupils the principles of morality, truth, justice, patriotism, and a true comprehension of the rights, duties, and dignity of American citizenship, and the meaning of equality and human dignity, including the promotion of harmonious relations, kindness toward domestic pets and the humane treatment of living creatures, to teach them to avoid idleness, profanity, and falsehood, and to instruct them in manners and morals and the principles of a free government.

14 California’s Requirements "Effective schools seek to develop and reinforce character traits, such as caring, citizenship, fairness, respect, responsibility, and trustworthiness, through a systematic approach that includes adult modeling, curriculum integration, a positive school climate, and access to comprehensive guidance and counseling services." —Elementary Makes the Grade! (CDE, 1999)

15 California’s Requirements In August of 1999, The California Superintendent of Education stated that “Character education is a critical component of education which needs to be embedded in the school culture and the core curriculum throughout the school year……"

16 California’s Requirements From the TPE’s: Teacher candidates “encourage student effort” “ensure active and equitable participation of all students” “support students in assuming increasing responsibility for learning” “establish procedures for routine tasks” “maintain clear expectations for….social behavior”

17 California’s Requirements “help students work responsibly with others” “respond appropriately to sensitive issues” “model ethical behavior for students”

18 Being a Good Example “model ethical behavior for students” Edmund Burke: “Example is the school of mankind and they will learn at no other.”

19 Obligations of Teacher Preparation Programs Given the requirements articulated in the ed code and in the TPE’s, And given that the teacher’s example will be the most effective form of character education, it is obvious that colleges and universities have the obligation to prepare teacher candidates to be good examples

20 Obligations of Teacher Preparation Programs How can teacher preparation programs do such a thing? Teaching subject matter knowledge and pedagogical expertise is one thing, but teaching “character”? It can be done In reading In writing In discussion In written and oral reflection on practice

21 Obligations of Teacher Preparation Programs Four areas of emphasis An informative, inspiring book: The Elements of Teaching by James Banner and Harold Cannon A careful, analytical reading of the TPE’s (especially in light of The Elements of Teaching) the use of movies that deal with ethical dilemmas for teachers (especially in light of The Elements of Teaching) On-going opportunities for reflection on practice (especially in light of The Elements of Teaching)

22 The Importance of an Inspiring Text The language of the TPE’s is bureaucratic; i.e., correct but bloodless, without vitality or reference to deep human meaning Contrast with Banner and Cannon’s view of the importance of “character”: “The challenge of personality that confronts (teachers) is not that of making themselves pleasing to their students, as much as that may seem to be desirable, but that of drawing out of themselves the traits of character --- the traits of their moral nature --- that will accommodate and enhance their students’ learning.”

23 The Importance of an Inspiring Text Or this: “If there is an ideal character for a teacher, it is one occupying a middle position between conflicting extremes. To be kind is not to be soft or weak, and to be demanding is not to be unfair. The balance to be achieved lies with a good-natured reserve and an enthusiastically generous sharing of intellectual excitement….”

24 The Importance of an Inspiring Text Let’s look at just two examples from the TPE’s: TPE 4 Candidates encourage student creativity and imagination. They motivate students and encourage student effort. When students do not understand content, they take additional steps to foster access and comprehension for all learners.

25 The Importance of an Inspiring Text TPE 5 Candidates for Teaching Credentials clearly communicate instructional objectives to students. They ensure the active and equitable participation of all students. They ensure that students understand what they are to do during instruction and monitor student progress toward academic goals.

26 The Importance of an Inspiring Text It’s not that the TPE’s stand for the wrong things, but that they stand for the right things in such shallow and untouching ways. Reading the TPE’s in conjunction with the appropriate sections of Banner and Cannon allows students to see the richness, depth, complexity, and profound human meaning that lies hidden beneath the bureaucratic coldness of the TPE’s.

27 The Importance of an Inspiring Text Movies about teachers are great ways to see, think about, and to discuss ethical issues of teaching. Here is Banner and Cannon on compassion: Compassion requires first that teachers know who their students are Compassion demands an adherence to high standards Compassion requires that students put themselves in their students’ places

28 The Importance of an Inspiring Text Compassion makes approval enjoyable and correction palatable Compassion requires avoiding favoritism Compassion moves teachers to acknowledge their students’ struggles Compassion means acting as a whole person Compassion is evident in a steady devotion to each student’s future

29 The Importance of an Inspiring Text “Those who experience difficulty in accepting the idea of compassion in the classroom, who resist the idea of sympathetic emotions, or who prefer their working lives to be exclusively intellectual should avoid teaching altogether and probably should consider devoting themselves to less demanding occupations, such as politics or crime.”

30 Movies as a Means to an End Consider The Emperor’s Club The main character, Mr. Hundert, is an exemplar of everything that Banner and Cannon preach. But his compassion for a student leads him astray His story serves as a cautionary tale about the remarkable complexity and subtlety of teaching taken seriously

31 Movies as a Means to an End Or The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie Miss Brodie has most, if not all, of the characteristics that Banner and Cannon preach Learning Order in her classroom Authority Imagination Compassion

32 Movies as a Means to an End But she perverts all of them She is undermined by her overriding devotion to herself, before her students, but in a completely unconscious way Her story serves as a cautionary tale, too: Merely having all the right characteristics is not enough. One has to be motivated by a right concern for one’s students

33 Movies as a Means to an End Or Goodbye, Mr. Chips (the Robert Donat version) Mr. Chippings suffers both personal and professional disappointment, desire and ambition squashed, but is always redeemed by his love of teaching He is tempted by selfish considerations --- in his case, self-pity; but his commitment to teaching allows him to rise above

34 Movies as a Means to an End Or The Dead Poets’ Society A wonderful opportunity for discussion Mr. Keating strikes us as wonderfully inspiring, even revolutionary On careful analysis, it’s not obvious whether he did the right thing or not, whether he was wise or not

35 Character Education Curriculum in Teacher Preparation First, a rich, well-written, inspiring book about the importance of teacher character Second, a careful analysis of each of the TPE’s, line-by- line, so students come to understand their ethical obligations to their students Third, a process of enriching the TPE’s by looking at specific parts of each TPE along with specific parts of a Banner and Cannon chapter

36 Character Education Curriculum in Teacher Preparation Fourth, viewing, discussing, and writing about movies focused on ethical issues for teachers Fifth, plenty of opportunity for writing, discussing, and reflecting on the importance of teacher character Sixth, on-going opportunities for both written and oral reflection on the importance of teacher character in one’s own practice

37 Character Education Curriculum in Teacher Preparation Seventh, on-going opportunities for teacher candidates to have conversations with Cooperating Teachers and University Supervisors, not just about pedagogy but about principle Eighth, on-going opportunities for intra-cohort conversations about the influence of principle on practice

38 Character Education Curriculum in Teacher Preparation Two quick notes: NCATE talks about “professional dispositions.” What Banner and Cannon write about is about principle and how it applies to practice. “Professional dispositions” refers just to practice. It’s shallow and prescriptive. I would not support any systematic, rubric-based assessment of teacher candidates based on “character”. It would be antithetical to the basic idea.

39 Character Education Curriculum in Teacher Preparation California --- through the TPE’s and the TPA’s --- is attempting to make the entire process of teacher preparation so completely rational, predictable, and orderly that everything can be measured. A right program of character education, embedded in an authentic way within a teacher preparation program, can enrich what the State is demanding, lead to better

40 classroom practice, and higher levels of academic achievement.


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