Teaching is one of the most complex, anxiety-inducing, rewarding, exasperating, wonderful things that a person can do. I learned how to teach from three places. My grandmother taught elementary school for twenty-nine years in rural Northern Illinois and recently told me a story about starting out. “When I was a first year teacher,” she told me, “I had first graders, none of whom had gone to kindergarten, many who were not potty trained, and, because this was the 1950s in the middle of the “Baby Boom” there were 40 of them in the room at once.” Her experience and compassion have been instrumental in making me into the teacher I am today.
The second place that I learned the practice of teaching was in my classroom in Chicago Public Schools. My students were/are amazing people who challenged me every day to challenge them. And while we didn’t have the resources of some of the schools in the wealthier parts of the city, we did manage to hold mock trials, put on plays, do science experiments, and have the first job fair in the school’s history.
The third place that I learned to teach is from my two children. My firstborn is turning four and my second child is turning two, meaning that both children have begun to develop opinions and ideas of their own and they have the ability to tell me clearly if their ideas and my own differ. It is a blessing that in moving back to Eugene from Chicago, my kids have spent much more time with their grandparents who regularly remind me that my boys’ stubbornness is only cosmic payback for my own childhood.
I know that I have much more to learn about teaching, but the fact that I have reached this point in my PhD program while managing a full course load, completing my comprehensive exams, delivering eight papers at national and international conferences, publishing two manuscripts and having two in review, developing curriculum for two million-dollar grant programs and the JSMA, currently preparing a curriculum for a study abroad trip to Senegal, developing a reputation as a professor whose classes are in high demand, and raising two children has given me confidence to believe that I will be able to finish the rest of my program successfully.
I am excited to begin my research study that will become my dissertation and soon begin the process of finding a faculty position in a teacher education program.
When I chose to apply for a position in the CSSE PhD program, I did so with the understanding that I was giving up the chance to be in the classroom with my 5th graders. What I promised myself was that I would only continue with this program so long as I believed that the work that I could do as a teacher-educator would have a greater impact on my former students and students like them than I could have had as their classroom teacher.
To that end, my dissertation research will be focused on teacher practice and knowledge and how a teacher uses those tools to encounter the curriculum. Specifically, I am going to focus on the enactment of antiracist curriculum in grades 5-8 in a variety of subject areas. For more information about this project check out my academia.edu site.
This year I am also excited to be co-teaching the elementary humanities methods course and TA in both graduate and undergraduate curriculum courses this year. I will also be helping to develop teaching and professional development materials for the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art.