How Do Teachers Grow in Their Craft?

Ten years ago I started my first career as a children’s librarian in a public library.  The first week,  I was to observe a baby storytime, and then be observed the subsequent week.  Before this, my only storytime experience had been with Kindergarten-2nd grade, a very different audience from the one I was transitioning to, so I was looking forward to the initial guidance and feedback I would receive.  Approximately five minutes before the baby storytime was scheduled to start, the librarian that was to train me came into the office in tears, severely distraught over a fight with her husband.  She then left me there to fend for myself. Needless to say I was extremely nervous, and felt bad for the quality of program I presented that day.  My observation the next week never happened and I basically schooled myself on best practices for my early literacy programs (this was not taught to me when I was getting my master’s in library science). I primarily relied on professional learning networks (PLNs) to get schooled in children’s programming, made a ton of mistakes and adjustments, and eventually mastered that area of my field after several years.  Now that I’m entering the field of education,  I have a feeling that my first year of teaching will be very similar to that first hour of baby and preschool storytime, only the consequences for those I’m teaching this time are way more important.  I plan to do an internship instead of student teach, so I feel like my first year will involve me falling flat on my face, many times.   But at least I know I’m going to fall,  so I can attempt to brace myself for it.

As a teacher in training, it’s encouraging to hear about the practices featured in a radio documentary called Training Teachers.   I was excited to learn about teaching residencies modeled after medical residencies in this American Radio Works (ARW) documentary: .  Getting to practice with highly qualified teachers and receive immediate feedback seems so valuable, as does the fact that the teachers in some of these residencies are practicing on adults standing in for actual students. This makes it less nerve-racking for the teacher in training because they don’t have an actual student’s education in their hands while they are still in process of training.  The immediate feedback also makes it easier to pinpoint problems and think of other methods in the moment, but also allows for reflection after the fact.  I’m also very encouraged by the development of the high leverage teaching practices.  One of the educators behind the practices, Deborah Ball, admits how difficult it was to create a comprehensive, yet practical list of the fundamental practices that teachers need to employ in order for their students to learn.  According to Ball, the list is not “the end,” and her and her colleagues request suggestions from educators as to practices that need to be added (Handford & Pekow, n.d.).  For a teacher-in-training like myself, who will not have the advantage of student teaching before being on my own in a classroom, knowing the high leverage practices will be extremely helpful in guiding my teaching.  

This same documentary also features the practice of lesson study in Japanese schools. Lesson study consists of teachers researching new teaching techniques and methods, planning a lesson using them, and having other teachers observe and critique the lesson, so the teachers are learning the newest methods of teaching, and also learning from each other.   I love this idea,  and the fact that the Japanese believe in the concept of continuous improvement,  in which most learning is done on the job and one is always striving to assess, reflect,  and improve upon one’s teaching (Hanford & Pekow, n.d.).  While I think it would be a little bit intimidating at first–having multiple colleagues sitting in on  lessons and making suggestions during the reflection time–I think it is something I would eventually get used to.  Being critiqued in the manner of the lesson study model would be a great way to practice high leverage teaching practice #19: analyzing instruction for the purpose of improving it.  Evaluating and reflecting on how I teach will only make me improve and be open to trying new methods of instruction for my students.

There are some schools in America trying out the practice of lesson study, but will it catch on in more American schools?  I hope so, but doubt it, because as education researcher James Hiebert said in Teaching Teachers, “We are so addicted to quick fixes. If it doesn’t fix things in two years, it’s not worth it” (Hanford & Pekow, n.d.).  Plus, the structure of the American school day would have to altered to accommodate the lesson study model, and additional money would need to spent to hire subs or paraprofessionals to watch classes while teachers attended lesson study.  I believe it would be so beneficial for American schools to adopt some form of lesson study, not only for the teachers being observed and critiqued, but also for the observers.   I have always benefitted tremendously from watching other professionals perform the same duties as me.  Everyone does things differently, and mindful observation can show even the most seasoned professional something new.  

One last thing that I really appreciated about the Japanese point of view on teaching is how they attribute achievement/learning problems to bad teaching instead of bad teachers.  A bad teacher needs to be replaced, but a teacher who is using ineffective methods can be taught new techniques and can develop as a professional.  As professor of education Deborah Ball said in Teaching Teachers, most teachers can not be expected to have a natural talent for teaching, but all teachers deserve to have training that prepares them to teach well, and the students they serve deserve to have well-trained teachers (Hanford & Pekow, n.d.).   As I enter the teaching profession, I need to plan not just how to educate and evaluate my students, but also how to educate and evaluate myself as a professional.  

Hanford, E. (Executive Producer) & Pekow, S. (Associate Producer). (n.d.). Teaching Teachers [Radio program]. Saint Paul, MN: American Public Media.


Ethical Dilemma for Educators

Greetings fellow educators!   In this audio file I discuss an ethical dilemma pertaining to sexual harassment in the profession of education.  Hopefully it will never happen to any of us, but it is good to be armed with knowledge and forethought of what we should if these incidences happen to us or our colleagues. 

**You may want to turn your volume down before listening.  There were some technical difficulties with my mic volume.  My apologies!**


(2016.) Code of Ethics and Standard Practices for Texas Educators. Retrieved from$ext.TacPage?sl=R&app=9&p_dir=&p_rloc=&p_tloc=&p_ploc=&pg=1&p_tac=&ti=19&pt=7&ch=247&rl=2

Facts About Sexual Harassment. (n.d.). Retrieved March 04, 2017, from

How Does Gender Affect the Teaching Profession?

In the nineteenth-century, much like today, the majority of public school teachers were female.  The reasons were simple:  women were cheaper labor than men and women were viewed as natural nurturers who could instill morality into their students.  Susan B. Anthony sought to change this by advocating for equal pay and for female teacher training at prestigious, co-ed universities (Goldstein, 2014).  Before the turn of the twentieth century, female administrators were unheard of in education.  According to Dana Goldstein in The Teacher Wars, “it was unthinkable that a woman would supervise men (p. 34).”  Female educators in the United States were not promoted into administrative positions until the turn of the twentieth century when teachers aligned themselves with blue collar labor unions to stage a rebellion.  They fought for better pay, better working conditions, and more control over their profession through access to upper levels of the professional hierarchy.  During this time, teachers’ federations, which eventually became unions, formed in large urban areas.  Two educators in Chicago, Margaret Haley and Catherine Goggin, encouraged local teachers to join the Chicago Federation of Teachers to fight for fairer wages, better benefits, and tenure.  Their efforts eventually resulted in the American Federation of Teachers, which is one of the largest teachers unions still in existence (“Teaching Timeline”).

How does the teaching profession look now, over one-hundred years after Anthony, Haley, and Goggins fought for gender equality?  Is teaching in America thought of as a prestigious profession?  Are teachers paid and supported in a way that promotes their worth in society?  Is the ratio of female administrators to teachers somewhat equal?   What ramifications do the answers to these questions have on the teaching and public education?

I’m sure you’ve heard the insipidly popular saying, “Those who can’t do, teach.”  Unfortunately, I believe this phrase conveys American society’s general opinion on the teaching profession.  In 2013, the Varkey Foundation attempted to rank the status of teachers by country in their Global Teacher Status Index.   The United States ranked ninth out of the twenty-one countries surveyed, but studies like this one that rely on human opinion should be taken with a grain of salt.  The United States beat out Finland, a nation known for its stellar national education system and for holding its teachers in great prestige and to high standards (Center on International Education Benchmarking, 2012).

Betsy Brown Ruzzi, VIce President of the National Center on Education and the Economy looked to the countries that outperformed the United States as models for improving the status of America’s teachers: “They recruit teachers at a minimum from the top third of the achievement cohort…. They also pay them well…. And when they enter teaching, they are treated like professionals (Khadaroo, 2013).”  According to a 2015 study, American  public school teachers made 17% less wages per week than similarly educated professionals in other  fields.  This is the largest wage gap seen since the start of data collection in 1979 (Strauss, 2016).  

Why are the professionals who take on the important task of preparing our children to become contributing members of society and the economy viewed and paid so poorly in America?  According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 2011-12, 76% of educators in public K-12 schools were female (“National Center for Education Statistics: Fast Facts”).  Are our cultures gender biases so ingrained that we give a lesser status and pay to professions that are historically female?  I believe that is large part of the problem, especially when considering that the best-paid, non-administrative positions in many Texas public school districts are the male-dominated position of head high school football coach.  Many of them make nearly the same as their principals, and at times, more than double a starting teacher’s salary, according to this report by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.  Another well-paid realm of the K-12 world that is overwhelmingly dominated by males is that of district superintendent.  Here is the breakdown of how women are represented within the hierarchy of school districts across the United States: 76% of teachers are female, 52% of principals, 78% of central office administrators, and a little bit less than 25% of district superintendents are female (Superville, 2016).  The fact that the gender divide skews so male in the top district position shows that women still have a ways to go in creating true equity in the realm of the teaching profession.  

Increasing the status level of the teaching profession, teacher pay, and the number of females at the highest district positions can only have positive effects for students.  Greater status and better pay would attract more highly qualified, highly competent educators to the profession and would also help retain talented teachersl.  Increasing the number of females in the upper echelon of a K-12 administration could increase the number of females interested in leadership positions in the profession, as well as inspire female students to pursue positions of leadership in the future.  Most teaching professionals deserve to be held in high esteem by the general public, the students, administration, and themselves.  


The following video gives the perspective of real educators on matters of status, pay, and more: 

Finland: Teacher and Principal Quality. (n.d.). Retrieved February 01, 2017, from


Goldstein, D. (2014). The teacher wars: A history of America’s most embattled profession. New York: Doubleday.


Khadaroo, S. T. (2013, October 02). Teacher status around the world: how the US stacks up. Retrieved February 01, 2017, from


National Center for Education Statistics: Fast Facts. (n.d.). Retrieved January 31, 2017, from


Strauss, V. (2016, August 16). Think teachers aren’t paid enough? It’s worse than you think. Retrieved February 01, 2017, from


Superville, D. R. (2016, December 30). Few women run the nation’s school districts. Why? Retrieved February 01, 2017, from


Teaching Timeline. (n.d.). Retrieved January 31, 2017, from