Sunday, December 9, 2007

An optimistic reading of these career crises

When frustration with the prospects for growth as a teacher are expressed as eloquently and forcefully as they have been at Teaching in the 408 and at Dy/Dan recently, it's hard to read these statements as mere public airings of private distress at a mismatch between job description and character traits. I still have Snow and Fillmore's remarkably upbeat closing to What every teacher should know about language echoing in my head after reading the article for an ed class recently, and perhaps for that reason reading TMAO's and Dan's complaints about incentives and structures missing in public education in a similar way - as a draft list of suggestions for changes. Back to Snow and Fillmore: in conclusion to a lengthy article about why teachers need to know a lot about educational linguistics, and after insisting that there are no less than six courses in this field that should be included in the preparation of every American teacher (yeah, right), the authors remark that
This proposal may strike some readers as utopian. We acknowledge that we have formulated it without thinking about the structures and constraints of traditional teacher education programs. Nonetheless, we are energized by the current political situation surrounding debates about bilingual education and the rather frantic search for better methods of teaching reading... (emphasis added)
If educational linguistics increasingly does become part of regular teacher training, that would presumably be in part because of this article. If measures are taken to encourage teachers to continue to develop and learn and grow throughout their career, that would presumably be in part a result of writings such as those of TMAO and Dan. It may not be possible to distinguish between a meeting of lost campers stuck on a ledge and an encounter between wanderers who are scouting out new trails and better ways for others to follow, except in retrospect - but it's more fun to read the discussion as a case of the latter. At any rate, for however long it lasts, these blogs challenge my sense of possibility and clarify the meaning of high standards on a regular basis, and that is much appreciated.

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