Thinking like…

In the general discussion that ensued in at least one faculty gathering, I was encouraged to “think like graduate faculty!” This struck me as a rather strange piece of encouragement. In retrospect, I’d say my sense of the strange was more due to my naivete than anything else. I guess I’d thought we were all faculty in one college or at least one department.

As I think about that assumption, I realize there are vestiges of old school thinking in my reasoning. I’ve been socialized into an academic life that had undergraduate education as its focus. The important thing was to do a very good job with your undergraduate teaching. That’s the way we attracted good students, that’s the way we held good students, and that was the way we established our reputation with the field as teacher/scholars who knew what we were doing. Teaching graduate students, in my old school view, came either on top of these assignments or once you had established your excellence with undergraduates. Somehow in my old school view, I grew into this job thinking it was a duty to teach undergraduates and an honor to teach graduate students.

Continue reading Thinking like…

Change Change Change…

What I am hoping to do is to keep an objective (?) running commentary here on the change process now occurring in the teacher education programs at UVM. My reason for doing this is to make my thoughts available to anyone who cares to access them. My purpose is a bit broader. Change is inevitable given the way the Dean has put our problem before us. It has been my experience that blogs can serve as a kind of off-line (halls of Waterman???) venue for those involved to offer commentary. SImple as that. No one may care to jump in. Some might wish to do so. This is a place where a discussion could be mounted that might be of some use. Meetings generally are not venues of reflective engagement. Reflection might happen here in a way that could support the many discussions and decisions that will occur in the coming months.

I’d like to start by simply stating what I think I’m hearing from the Dean.


1. We have a budget shortfall in DOE of somewhere between $350l-$400k. She also said half a million dollars but I suspect that was hyperbole.

2. $172k is represented by $ going to support PDS relationships.

3. With an N of 1, she has not heard good things about the PDS relationship.

4. The budget shortfall is primarily the result of unwise budgeting practices that have occurred within the teacher education programs, most notably the elementary and secondary teacher education programs.

5. She directed the Chair to create a plan to address the deficit asap; asap=the AY05-06, 06-07.

6. The Chair created a plan that has the Dean’s backing. If faculty do not create a workable alternative, the default plan goes into effect early March06.

7. The Dean will not be a participant in plan making. She has asked faculty to be the plan makers. She will be the final word on whether new plans will be put into place. This is a modification process not requiring approval within the University course change process.

8. We are to think out of the box.

9. We are to think quality.

10. We are to put UVM on the national map relative to teacher education.

11. We are to keep current numbers of enrolled students while exorcising those elements of current programming that create negative budget pressures.

12. This will be painful. Pain means the loss of non-tenured positions. The first round of pink slips have already been issued to a few faculty whose services will no longer be required.

13. We are to work harder to achieve these desired ends.

14. We are a good faculty, there is much excellence here, she expects us to get the job done.

What am I missing?

I’d like to continue by sharing a few feelings.

It is hard not to feel denigrated by this effort. Listening to the Dean’s perception of what we have, it feels very much like she sees these programs as static, provincial, and greedy. Translated, I guess that means something like we have programs that are in a rut, they serve only regional needs and are not on any national screen of teacher education excellence, and we expect money when we have to hire part time faculty, school based or not, to address program needs. My response to this is pretty simple. I and many others that I know often put in 10 – 12 hour days. Even more. Our programs are not static. They required constant tending and adjustment. Our programs are a unique blend of praxis: university based instruction is intimately woven into field based requirements. We follow our students in the schools to support, critique, and magnify the effects of experiential and reflective work with kids and teachers across the k-12 spectrum. We do not deliver our students to public school personnel to be educated. We accompany and provoke their intellectual journey to become teacher leaders. And we are pretty successful at what we do. How do I know? I know why students leave the program before they enter their professional years. I know why students come to our program from other parts of the University. I see where our students are hired and what they are doing after only a few years of teaching. We are doing what we’ve set out to do and are doing it the best we know how.

For me to head into this time of program change in any kind of sane manner, I have to view what we are about to undertake as a process of bringing closure to current efforts. I need to envision this process as an “end old programs/create new programs” effort. Why? Simple. The equation that requires a double digit reduction of sections while continuing to press for increased numbers of students in the program means a drop in program quality as we currently know it. We cannot continue to deliver what we are doing with that deep a cut and to snip here and snip there in an effort to do it is hypocritical and antithetical to what we believe good teacher education to be. We have to declare victory, get out, and build anew.

What do we build? I’m going to leave that for another time. What are we to become? I going to leave that for another time. I have interesting thoughts about both those questions. I think I’ll leave this commentary with the big question in my mind. It came from a meeting where the Doctoral Advisory Committee was being asked to “think like graduate faculty.” I think the answer appeared as hopes and dreams were stated around the table. The question left me thinking there was a 600 pound gorilla somewhere in the room. Here’s the gorilla…

What does it mean to “think like undergraduate faculty?”

Ponder that.

Lest I Forget


Earlier in the week, the wind chill was -4F. walking into work. That is waaaaaay too cold for early in December. A pictoral memory of the way the Green was once not too long ago may carry me through the next few months. Always (well, usually) the perpetual optimist, at least I’m awake when I enter the building on these very dark mornings. The solstice approaches. Come quickly. Please.

FAQs… The El.Ed. Program

My students have different questions about their education in the eled. program as they mature into the program. My first year students are more curious about things like, “How do I know what to take next semester?” or “Where’s the gym?” or “Why am I living in Jean Mance???” My second year students really start to get curious about such things as, “Am I really hirable with a UVM degree?” “How do I compare with graduates from other schools?” “Will anyone want me without a degree in English?” “What’s praxis anyhow?”

These question are the ones students asked at the late afternoon advising meeting we held in early October. The meeting was inspired by an outburst of unquenchable curiousity that occurred in my 178 sophomore class, Fall 05. We decided on the spot to organize a late afternoon pizza/question session. Thanks to Melissa Giordano and her friends who helped organize the event.

I’ll keep this entry going until I get all the questions answered, and then I’ll keep adding to it.

The Elementary Program

1. What’s this 12 credit student teaching course all about?

After all the various internships across the four years of the program, you will have one semester where most of what you will do will be student teaching. You will be placed with a local teacher and follow that teacher’s schedule, gradually taking over the classroom. Two weeks towards the end of your student teaching semester you will be in complete charge of the classroom and your mentor teacher will be absent from the classroom. You will be the children’s teacher for two full weeks doing all the planning and preparation for that period of time. During this fifteen credit semester, twelve credits accounts for this internship experience. The other three credits are for a two credit course in classroom organization and a one credit portfolio development course. Currently, the portfolio course is being folded into the organization course for a three credit experience.

2. Can you talk about options for our major concentrations? Any suggestions?

All our major concentrations and their requirements are listed on the following website.

What to choose is a moving target. As an advisor, I usually advise two things. 1) The concentrations are not required with teaching methods in mind. They are required as one way to make you more broadly educated so it’s hard to choose one that feeds directly into a teaching interest. Choose one that you like or at least one that provides you with knowledge being sought in elementary teachers. Speech and language, Spanish, the sciences would fall into those categories. 2) NCLB legislation has narrowed the allowed concentration (or major) in some states to more traditional arts and science majors – English, History, Geography, Biology, etc. Human Development and Psychology are frowned upon by the federalistas at this point. Best advice? Check with the Department of Education in the state in which you might teach. The requirements change frequently across the varied states. One Size Does Not Fit All. Be forewarned.

3. Can I double major with my major concentration?

Not really. I mean you can, but at UVM that means fulfilling two sets of general education requirements, one for the College of Education and one for whatever other college the other major is in. It would be nice if UVM had uniform general education requirements across the various colleges but that is wishful thinking at this point. So, if you were to double major, you would have to earn in the neighborhood of 160 credits to graduate. You might as well wait and get a masters degree.

4. Can Special Education be a Major Concentration?

No. Special Education at UVM is a graduate program. There is an 18 credit special education minor that eled. majors can take but it is not part of any major field of study. Interested? Plan early! See Professor Salembier in the Special Education Office, 4th floor Waterman.

5. Why so many courses?

The College of Education and Social Services is a professional school. Our graduates have to be licensed to practice, unlike most graduates from the College of Arts and Sciences. The State of Vermont sets licensing guidelines and our programs, in part, are built around those guidelines. Other guidelines are set by national accrediting organizations such as NCATE, the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education – the most respected accrediting agency for teacher education. We have lots to do in four years given that we have to prepare you for the review of your licensing portfolio and to meet requirements for the degree. The License and the Degree are two different things. UVM awards the degree after you meet our requirements. The State of Vermont awards you a license after you prove you graduated from an approved program (and send them money to pay for the license). It’s a lot to get into eight semesters especially if you want to poke around UVM for a while sampling what it has to offer. If this is what you want to do – and it is a VERY legitimate thing to do – you are better off doing a graduate program to get your license. Says who? Says me!

Opening Comments DOE Budget Meeting

Tried to set a context where emotion could be honestly spoken without conflagration or a detonation of intensely hostile feelings.

Introductory Remarks

December 16, 2005

Department of Education Meeting

I was asked to moderate this meeting this morning and I respectfully accepted. I’d like us to think about the following ground rules for a discussion that will be undoubtedly charged, intellectually and emotionally.

• Use I statements.

• Let people finish before you speak.

• Be respectful of time. I may ask individuals to wrap it up if individual statements go beyond five minutes.

• Be cautious about premature solutions.

• Have Dean Miller speak first and move us into dialogue.

• Be aware of language…feeling language and thought language

We gather here in quite unusual circumstances. I suppose there are as many reasons for being here as there are people in the room. Regardless of what drew us individually, two things are for certain. 1 — We walked through these doors tied together in our own unique and constructed history. Histories built upon relationships…some relationships close up, some relationships at arms length, distant but still within operational distance. We sit here tied together by necessity…our professional existence strangely interdependent but mostly privately negotiated. Also we sit here bound by a kind of trust, an institutional trust that what we do is important and useful and contributory to a grander scheme that has given each of us professional purpose, professional challenge, and professional reward. And now, we sit here, in a state where that trust has been shaken, even shattered, worried about programs, concerned about colleagues, distraught that some of our partners of 18 years, colleagues with whom we have created our various programs of teacher education up close and personal, may not be our colleagues any more after this decade and a half crisis of budget shakes out. Some of us sit here angry, angry that our world is so vulnerable and unprotected, angry that we are being asked to act precipitously. These are felt, human feelings that sit beside each or us this morning as we try to discern what is real and what it is that we must do.

The second certainty that draws us here is the need for information. We sit here knowing and not knowing. We sit here with a new Dean, an administrator still quite new to us, a person we are getting to know, a person many of us supported as a candidate, a Dean who has prevailed upon our current Chair to effect a budget correction that has been literally decades in the making and has in times past been taken care of by processes beyond the department. In the past, this deficit was passed over, so it seemed, as part of the business of doing good work. Now it is not. And we are being asked to fix it by mid January, really, the time Fall semester catalog copy is due…roughly 45 days from today.

We’ve decided to ignore program boundaries by accepting the elementary education program’s invitation to offer up their time with the dean to talk about a strategic plan situated in a newly altered context. We come together as a department desperately needing information…to try to understand what’s really needed, what the real time lines are, to find out if we are adjusting current programs, or ending current programs and creating new ventures. We are being encouraged to think outside the box but the box remains elusive, clouded by disbelief, uncertain information, and shifting realities. We come together as colleagues needing information to take those first steps forward, to acknowledge the pain that occasioned this meeting, and perhaps to glimpse a tiny glimmer of opportunity in what feels all too unreal at the present moment.

Our purpose this morning should be to gather the best information possible as we determine our next steps, individually as programs and collectively as UVM’s teacher education community. While we do that, let us not forget that we have attracted our 400+ students because we are award winning faculty teaching in cutting edge programs that have taken years to craft and shape. Programs that we are immensely proud of.


What are the timelines we must adhere to?

What are the negotiables, and non-negotiables as we decide what it is we must do with the future of teacher education at UVM???

What are our next steps?

What is the current situation?