plans and crafts, calls and invitations

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by Adam

A few weeks ago, John and I spent a few days in Portland, Oregon, and there we schemed and crafted a plan. Or, really, a collection of plans. I hardly know where to start, but I suppose that the best way to start is to announce the

Call for Papers

for Science Education at the Crossroads 2014

at the Heathman Hotel

in Portland, September 25-27.

There are details, and there are stories, and we’ll be happy to tell you all of these and how they’ve derived at the bar of the Heathman, in between Incubator sessions, or perhaps even during our initial reception. For now, here’s what I think is important to announce:

Invitations
We’ve always been deliberate in our inviting and encouraging submissions from people that we consider “polite dinner guests” that have Vexations and Ventures, as well as offer a diverse set of views. At the same time, we recognize that we can’t possibly know everyone that we need to extend invitations to, especially those who are new to the field or otherwise on the fringes. So, we are making a call for nominations of individuals that we should invite. If you’ve been to Crossroads, then you have a feel for how the meeting works and who both needs and can contribute to the meeting. We need you to send us a note and tell us about this person. A former student? Great. A new colleague? Fantastic. A teacher you work with and would like to have contribute to the discussion? Wonderful. In addition to these, what would be best of all would be someone interested in …

Professional Learning
We play around with different features to add to the Vexation and Venture format each year, and this year we would like to promote the specific theme of “professional learning.” We’re especially interested in V&Vs that are about your own endeavors to work with teachers, scholars, and other professionals as they practice and develop their craft. We consider Crossroads to be one example of this, and, in fact, we are pursuing external funding to support the 2014 meeting and our efforts to present this as a model to others. Our strategy is to bring together those who are making strides in professional learning, both to learn from them and to offer the Crossroads model as the backdrop for those discussions. So, we encourage your contributions along these lines (and, frankly, we’ll favor those contributions in the selection process), as well as all of the other possibilities that will respond to our …

Call for Proposals
The call follows our typical format of Vexation and Venture, with the additional encouragement to work on proposals that focus on your own professional learning opportunities (professional development for teachers, mentoring of new scholars, development of a new writing conference, etc.) described above. These are due by April 26th, a Saturday, per our tradition. And, earlier is better. Early contributions bring us joy, make the spring sun shine a little brighter, and give us something to do other than grade papers. And, they especially help us build up an expectation and high hopes for the pile of contributions we should expect. We expect a lot, because we have some plans …

Conference Setting
John and I are rational people, most of the time. Yet, while putting together details of this fall’s meeting, things kept coming together in beautifully coincidental ways.  The Heathman Hotel is just one example with its perfectly sized meeting space and cozy atmosphere. The meeting rooms are adjacent to a library filled with first edition, signed books — each autographed by the authors when they stayed at the hotel. There are close to 3000 of these titles … and John and I decided we really ought to finish writing our Crossroads book. The hotel emphasizes the arts in all forms, including original Andy Warhol compositions on every level. Over lunch with our keynote speaker, she talked about using Warhol in classrooms where she volunteers. Which prompted an excursion back to the hotel to show her the artwork. There we bumped into our friend the Sales Manager who was excited to show us the dedicated Andy Warhol suite that had just been vacated. As luck would have it, our keynote presenter is going to model professional learning by incorporating arts and crafts into her presentation. But that’s not even why we contacted her in the first place. That’s another story, and eventually we’ll explain. We haven’t even told you about our field trips that we hope will turn into an excursion during our last evening in Portland.

It’s been a long two years for us to wait, and we’re very, very excited at the many prospects. So, get to work. Send us names and emails of people you feel would be good attendees based on the theme of expanding the craft of professional learning. We are excited to assemble everyone, new and old, together in September.

service and planning

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by Adam

It was one of those days. You know, you wonder where the time has gone, what you’re really supposed to be doing, and whether this is really making a difference. Usually, if I keep myself in a classroom for a good part of a day then I can really feel like I’ve done something worthwhile. Outside of a classroom, depending on the context, life can sometimes feel like I’m a character playing out a scene in a Dilbert cartoon. And then, during a conversation with someone above me on our org chart, I was told, “It’s nice that you reach teachers across [the state], but you need to think about how to help out [our university].” That statement, referring to some collaborative grantsmanship I’ve been working on, kind of capped off my day.

2013-11-08-2013-11-14-09-00.gif
http://dilbert.com/strips/2013-11-08/

I could go on to about the multiple problems with this mentality: that it’s not someone else’s job to direct my scholarship for which I’m accountable, that the university has a mission designed to serve the state and local community, that we have bigger ambitions, …

As I fussed about all this, I found myself thinking about people I’ve met at Crossroads who would agree and are also the people who work on projects that are not easy to execute or with  measurable outcomes. People grappling with how to frame an innovative research project, host their own conference, or reform a single classroom. The trouble is, I haven’t seen many of you, for an obvious reason: We didn’t host a meeting in fall 2013. By now you’ve figured this out, even though we didn’t send out a formal announcement (though a few actually asked what was up). You’ve seen a few extra posts here, as we’ve encouraged some of you to describe work that you’re currently involved in — and we still hope to see a few more examples of this. The idea has been, while John and I have been regrouping and trying to get out from underneath other projects, that you people would be out there continuing to do important, fulfilling work.

Yes, we’d still love to hear about this. So would everyone else. Send us your story and we’ll get it posted right here.

But, also, there’s this, the thing that I can no longer hold back announcing. (This seemed especially apropos when I’m told to think smaller, internally, rather than broader and collaboratively.) We’re getting ready for a meeting the fall of 2014. We’re headed west, and we think we know the city; the RFPs are going out to sites; we’re having conversations with our keynote presenter; we’re planning a trip to visit the conference site in a couple of months. A call for proposals should be out in March.

John and I started feeling the need to ignite the conference again almost as soon as we’d decided against hosting a 2013 meeting. Frankly, we need a bigger perspective. We want to see what people are up to, what their projects are becoming, and what new initiatives they’re daring to undertake. I’m excited to review proposals, match people together in Incubator sessions, and even to pick out the menu for lunches. And the keynote … well, you’ll just have to wait.

More details are forthcoming. But for now we can say that we’re looking at an early weekend in October for the meeting, with proposals due around the first of May. Until then, I have a collaborative grant proposal to write so that I can work with science teachers around the state.

Reflecting on a Vision of United Engagement in Chicago

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by Lara Smetana

The Crossroads call for blog posts came out during a tense mid-September week during which Chicago was gripped by a Chicago Teacher Union strike. Like many across the city, I was tied to the various Twitter feeds reporting minute-by-minute updates from the picket lines and negotiation headquarters and trying to make some sense, for myself, out of the recent events that had been on the horizon for months but had finally materialized. How do I, a relatively new assistant professor of teacher education, sort through the personal and professional dimensions of these local controversies?

Following the logic that Alan Lichtman has used to predict the outcomes of presidential elections since 1860 (Vedantam, 2012), it could be argued that the Chicago Teachers Union strike was inevitable. The strike represented an upheaval such as that which naturally results from deep tectonic forces that cause earthquakes. I view the wave of teacher strikes that have passed through Chicago and other nearby school districts during Fall 2012 as part of larger national tremors of frustration with persistent inequalities (Ariely, 2012) and social inequities, including in educational opportunity and outcomes (Schmidt & McNight, 2012).

While reflecting upon my own professional efforts in the midst of these challenging times, I returned to a copy of the recently published Research on Schools, Neighborhoods, and Communities: Toward Civic Responsibility. Here, William Tate (2012) calls for the development of research and practice pathways, or “mutually informing set of interactions among scholars, civic leadership and educational professionals with the goal of supporting children and by extension their families” (p. 523). He also warns against the sort of “parallel play” that too often characterizes highly departmentalized academic research efforts.

Expanding upon his vision of united engagement, I see solutions to the deep, underlying problems troubling school systems across the country as possible through braided efforts of teachers, administrators, school support staff, district officials, students, families, neighborhoods, universities, community organizations and agencies. Individual strands are identifiable, recognized and celebrated, but the strength and tightness of the braid as a whole comes from a demonstrated common commitment to looking out for the best interests of students and families; to lifelong learning, growth and development; to transparent sharing of information and explanations through open lines of communication; to genuine dialogue and discussion; to just, moral and benevolent behavior. The sort of “us against them” mentality that colored much of the Chicago Teacher Union strike conversations from both sides of the picket line and in the media is in unfortunate contradiction to this perspective.

The School of Education at Loyola University Chicago is optimistic that recent and ongoing changes in the structure of our teacher preparation programs take a small step toward reaching the formidable, idealistic goal described above. We believe that education has the potential to be empowering, and thus our teacher candidates must be committed and well-prepared to consistently make positive impacts on the students, schools, and communities in which they work. In order to do so, our programs must seek the same outcomes as that of effective schools: supporting and sustaining successful students, innovative classrooms, exemplary schools, enriched communities, and global citizenship (Zhao, 2010). Further, we must work in true – purposeful, mutually beneficial and non-hierarchical – partnerships (Kruger, 2009) with schools and communities to achieve this. My colleagues and I have worked diligently over the past year to design and gain approvals for the Teaching, Learning, and Leading with Schools and Communities program (see infographic below). This clinically-based initial teacher preparation program, fully embedded in local schools and community organizations, takes a systemic perspective on the development of sophisticated, reflective, and resilient educators who not only possess the knowledge and skills of effective teachers, but also a deep understanding of the varied roles and responsibilities that educators who work in collaboration with their school and larger communities assume.

I look forward to continuing to share the progress of this new initiative, as well as side consequences for the schools and communities with whom we are working, with my Crossroads colleagues. As always, your feedback, questions and conversations will help to keep me focused on a research and practice pathway that results in lasting positive outcomes for all involved.

LoyolaTeacherPrepFigure by Erik Barraza and un-ravel

Works Cited

Ariely, D. (2012, August 2). Americans want to live in a much more equal country: They just don’t realize it. Retrieved from: http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2012/08/americans-want-to-live-in-a-much-more-equal-country-they-just-dont-realize-it/260639/

Kruger, T. (2009). Effective and sustainable university-school partnerships: Beyond determined efforts by inspired individuals. Canberra: Teaching Australia. Retrieved from: http://www.aitsl.edu.au/verve/_resources/Effective_and_Sustainable_University-School_Partnerships.pdf

Schmidt. W.H., & McKnight, C. (2012). Inequality for all: The challenge of unequal opportunity in American schools. New York: Teachers College Press.

Tate, W. F. (2012).  Toward civic responsibility and civic engagement. In W. F. Tate  (Ed.) Research on schools, neighborhoods, and communities: Toward civic responsibility. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield.

Vedantam, S. (2012, November 9). What earthquakes can teach us about elections. National Public Radio. Recording retrieved from http://www.npr.org/blogs/itsallpolitics/2012/11/09/164711093/what-earthquakes-can-teach-us-about-elections

Zhao, Y. (2010). Preparing globally competent teachers: a new imperative for teacher education. Journal of Teacher Education, 61(5), 422–431. Retrieved from: http://jte.sagepub.com/content/61/5/422.full.pdf