Teacher Education

You know… I never thought I would be here. TEACHER EDUCATION. For the longest time, I thought that “new teachers” were so bright and bubbly that it was going to be a struggle for them to immerse into the K-12 system as educators. I often thought I preferred Master degree students because they have some experience in teaching in the K-12 system and understood the nuances of the practice. This is true, but what I have come to realize is, “new teachers” come out of TEACHER EDUCATION bright and bubbly because they were taught and trained to be that way. I don’t mean that negatively. I mean that wholeheartedly that “new teachers” should be bright and bubbly when they enter the K-12 system. The system needs it. There is nothing wrong with the periodic boost of a “new teacher” or teacher candidate in the classroom and school. It can be humbling and inspiring at the same time. My mindset has shifted on teacher education.

I’ll admit, I did apply to SFU to be a Faculty Associate a couple of times. I was shortlisted twice and interviewed, but never selected. I had always suspected that my application was unusual or different because I did not apply as a practicing teacher. At the time, I was completing my doctorate and I was a school trustee. My work could not be seconded, but applications were not limited to practicing teachers. Nonetheless, it never happened but I was certainly noticed. How do I know this? At the Hawaii International Conference on Education (HICE) a couple of years ago, I was presenting a few times… once for my dissertation as a poster presentation and a couple times with my EdD supervisor on a couple of projects. I met a few people and went to this workshop led by an SFU Indigenous Scholar. It turned out that half of the people attending the workshop reviewed my SFU FA application. They all seemed to know me. It spooked me out!!! After the workshop, they introduced themselves to me and had only complimentary things to say. In the end, they said it was a tough decision and they filled FA positions based on need.

Timing is everything. Even though I now know that I was a viable candidate to be an FA at SFU, it wasn’t my time. I worked as a sessional instructor at SFU and St. Mark’s College in Education. I wondered how one could create a relationship with students when you only have 13-weeks with students per term. I mean, I did have a relationship with the students. Some hot, some cold… but wondered if I would ever have the deep relationships you would have in K-12. When I taught high school math, I saw students every day for 5 months or every other day for 10 months. Over time, you can build relationships with students… where some were hot and others cold… but they were deeper relationships (I felt) than those created with adults over 13-weeks. Anyway, after I completed my doctorate, I was finding a job in higher education and landed a position teaching at UNBC. I was teaching a wide variety of courses from Research Methodology, Introduction to Curriculum and Instruction, and the practicum seminar course. I’m in my second year at UNBC and I am well immersed in the TEACHER EDUCATION program.

Guess what? This is a 2-year program and the students I started teaching in first and second term of their first year in teacher education. I have taught them also in first term of second year and I get to observe some of them as part of their FINAL PRACTICUM as a Faculty/Practicum Mentor (aka. Faculty Associate). UNBC has a different model of teacher education, but in essence, I am an FA. This is very exciting. Well… I did not realize that it was EXCITING until I had the opportunity to observe some of our Year 2 Teacher Candidates during their final practicum. I was so awestruck by their willingness to learn and accept feedback. It was the first time I understood what INSTRUCTIONAL LEADERSHIP was, in practice. We were focussed on teaching and learning but also I was able to see (or witness) the work that was invested over time in the teacher education program and how it is transferred into practice into the classroom. Best of all, I have a deep relationship with these Teacher Candidates that has developed over the 2-years of the program. I am invested in their learning and I have seen their transformation over time from “student” to “educator.” They are learning the nuances of the practice.

Every email I get… every meeting I have… and every lesson plan I read… I get excited. I am excited for these Teacher Candidates to get out in the field to “learn how to teach.” And as they are learning how to teach, I am learning about how they learn and how they learn how to teach. It’s challenging to take tacit knowledge and make it explicit. Strangely, I feel that everything I have done in my career in education has prepared me for this position in Teacher Education today. From my K-12 experience as a secondary math teacher to school trustee to parent (in addition to research, dissertation, and my other experiences teaching in higher education), I can see the different roles and responsibilities of each person in the system and how each role impacts student learning. Now that’s exciting. I continue to learn… as I had recently defined lesson/unit planning as the science of teaching and practicum as the art of teaching. We need both to be successful in the classroom. I never realized how complex teaching is until I became a teacher educator. Now I have a better appreciation for the complexities of teaching.

What I have come to learn about TEACHER EDUCATION is that this is a process, it’s all about the learning, and transformation of self and identity is not easy (and it’s not meant to be easy). I love the people I have met and all of the wonderful things I’ve learned (s0 far). I get to continue my sessional work online, but also I get to build relationships over time with my Teacher Candidates with coursework and practicum. I feel very lucky to be part of their pedagogical journey. I never thought this would be possible. I never thought that teacher education would be part of my trajectory, but here I am and loving it. I also love the idea that I can work with graduate students and move forward with a research agenda. It seems like I am at the beginning of my career… and I am. Learning is amazing and what impresses me about the Teacher Candidates I am working with is, they are LEARNERS. That’s what matters to me the most. To be a teacher, you are the lead learner.