By: Professor Eric Conrad
- A severely disabled 10 year old said “I love you mama” for the first time using an app on her iPad.
- A child who’s father died finds solace and inspiration in having his first male teacher for fifth grade. A true mentor.
- A group of fourth and fifth grade students began a coat drive to aid local disadvantaged families.
- A child progresses nearly two grade levels in reading in one year. Her teacher was persistent and found the right instructional interventions.
- A veteran teacher of 32 years expresses that using the Smartboard to teach math is the greatest educational experience she’s ever had. To watch her interact with her children is magical.
These and similar events occur every day in every school.
The educational system is currently in the midst of one of the largest scale changes in history. It’s messy, frustrating, and at points demeaning. Many people are quick to offer a synopsis of the negative events and initiatives that are making their jobs and likely their daily lives miserable.
Oddly, when I first began teaching 14 years ago, my district was undergoing a widespread change in both curriculum and teacher evaluation. Deja Vue, right? I was constantly hearing many negative things about every choice that was made for the system. How in the past things worked great and the new ways were bogged-down with problems. Eventually, the dust settled, and most people found that what was in place was not nearly as bad as they thought. In fact, some of what was being done was better. The weird thing though, was that as a new teacher, I heard the grumblings, but didn’t understand. First, I had no prior knowledge to serve as a benchmark for comparison and second, I loved almost every moment that I was with my students and that trumped all of the adult “nonsense” that constantly swirled around.
Currently, we know that what we’re doing is not working well enough. Not for all students, not for preparing them for the future workplace. Our world has changed drastically in a relatively short period of time. This has set he educational pendulum is swinging once again. Watching and waiting to see where it settles is not comfortable, but teachers, if nothing else, are flexible and always persevere.
So something to consider: As members of the educational system, we each have the ability to inspire future teachers; to an extent farther than we believe or are aware of. We guide their beliefs and help shape how they will approach their children and how they will in-turn inspire them. Continue to pass along the positive message, that regardless of what the new evaluation program looks like, despite what negatives you may hear, contrary to what new mandates politicians push through, educators make all the difference and teaching continues to be one of the most rewarding vocations there is.
By: Beth Larkins-Strathy, Associate Dean
The School of Education warmly welcomed MAT, MSTL, and EDL alumni to Homecoming 2013, on Saturday, November 16. This is the first time the SOE has been involved in the Quinnipiac University Annual Homecoming and the SOE events were quite successful. Over 50 alumni, relatives, friends and faculty attended the social and had the chance to renew friendships and reconnect. A variety of appetizers and drinks were offered as participants chatted, networked and listened to a trio of very gifted musicians from North Haven High School.
After the social alumni, family and friends and faculty were joined by current students and members of the community for a powerful discourse on education and its many facets. The talk, “Be That Teacher” facilitated by Blaise Messinger, Connecticut’s Teacher of the Year, focused on the most important role of teachers, lighting a fire and motivating students. Blaise encouraged participants to focus on the “Uncommon Core” as well as the much debated and now required Common Core. Members of the audience were encouraged to share their experiences and ask Messinger about issues and concerns that were important to them. Comments from exiting participants ranged from, “Excellent speaker” to “I wish every beginning teacher and every tenured teacher could hear his words, especially in this era of change.”
Pictured are Judy Falaro, MAT Special Education instructor, Meaghan Ames, MAT ’12 and her fiancée, Dan.
By: Sophia Weissmann, Public School Intern from Yale University
Quinnipiac University generously donated over 30 computers, monitors, and keyboards to Fair Haven School. Ms. Gethings, the principal at Fair Haven School, called together an ace team of college student volunteers, techies, and teachers to help put together Fair Haven’s new computer lab.
Professor Richard Guidone, adjunct professor at Quinnipiac University, also attended and helped with set up.
Mrs. Lauren Canalori, the literacy coach at Fair Haven, was the organizer of the team. She coordinated breakfast, brought a radio to keep the tunes going during set-up, and even recruited her husband, Paul Canalori, a tech expert from Cisco, to direct the team’s efforts.
Yale intern Sophia Weissmann reached out to the brothers of Lambda Upsilon Lambda, Yale’s Latino fraternity. President William Genova got some brothers and friends together to help move all of the computers and monitors into the new lab.
On Saturday November 16th, reconnect with Alumni during Quinnipiac’s School of Education Homecoming events, located on the North Haven Campus.
2:00pm-3:00pm: Dean’s Networking Social
Join Dean, Kevin G. Basmadjian and other faculty for a networking social. Reconnect and see first hand how the School of Education has grown. Enjoy beverages provided by Eli’s Restaurant.
3:00pm: School of Education Guest Lecture: “Be That Teacher”
Join Blaise Messinger, 2013 Connecticut Teacher of the Year for her guest lecture. Event located in the Center for Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences Auditorium.
There is no charge for these events, although registration is requested. Please visit: https://secure.www.alumniconnections.com/olc/pub/QNC/event/showEventForm.jsp?form_id=158591
By Kevin G. Basmadjian- Dean, School of Education
Recently, over 120 authors of children’s literature – including Maya Angelou and Judy Blume – wrote a letter to President Obama in which they urged him to “Change the way we assess (student) learning so that schools nurture creativity, exploration, and a love of literature from the first day of school through high school graduation.” As an educator of future teachers, I share a related concern, which is the adverse effects of standardized testing, teacher evaluations, and the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) on the recruitment and retention of creative, autonomous, and curious teachers.
I had an opportunity last week to meet with high school guidance counselors who were visiting our university as part of a day-long tour of our campus and academic programs. Three of the counselors, all former teachers, shared with me some current perspectives on teaching that I have worried about for many years. As one of them explained, “Because of what’s happening in schools today, fewer and fewer (high school) students express an interest in becoming a classroom teacher.” When I asked the counselors to elaborate, they shared concerns that I have heard repeatedly from teachers with varied years of experience: Today’s climate of standardized teaching, tests, and curricula, linked to high-stakes teacher evaluations, is transforming the teaching profession into a largely technical field, leaving little space for – and even discouraging – teacher creativity, autonomy, and exploration.
As the dean of a school of education that advocates and promotes these teacher qualities, I have become increasingly concerned about our ability to attract and retain a wide range of unique and talented individuals into our profession. I worry that our corporate-influenced political leaders’ narrow focus on high-stakes standardized testing will eventually discourage our nation’s most creative and independent thinkers from entering and staying in the teaching profession. My concerns are magnified for low-income urban schools, where 50 percent of teachers leave the profession within the first five years. Most leave not because of challenging student behavior – as we are often led to believe – but because of their schools’ preoccupation with standardized test preparation over creative and engaging teaching and learning experiences.
And yet, if an accomplished adult were asked to identify his or her most influential teacher, the response would likely describe an individual who nurtured and inspired his or her creativity, curiosity, and passion for learning. Rarely, if ever, would we hear something like, “My favorite teacher was Mr. Smith, who helped me earn a near perfect score on our school’s state-mandated test.” Our best teachers are those who utilize and sustain their unique and creative styles and personalities to inspire and motivate students, who connect with and push them to achieve on different levels and in different ways. Unfortunately, and quite remarkably, today we find ourselves held hostage by a system of standardized curricula, teaching and testing that we know – through intuition as well as evidence – will ultimately thwart our nation’s historically creative and entrepreneurial spirit.
In making this argument, I am in no way advocating a retreat from efforts to assess teacher effectiveness as it relates to student learning. Having worked with hundreds of teachers over the past 25 years, I know of some who have not held up their end of the educational bargain, and have utterly failed their students. But these ineffective teachers are, by far, the exception rather than the rule in our profession. Most, by any measure, are dedicated professionals who take very seriously their responsibility to teach students the knowledge and skills necessary for success in the 21st century. It is a responsibility that demands abundant patience, creativity, and ingenuity on the part of teachers, as well as varied interactions with a diverse range of teacher styles, interests, and personalities.
Thus, what our nation and schools desperately need is a system of teacher evaluation that can measure teacher effectiveness in ways that support – not discourage – teacher creativity and autonomy, as well as high tolerance for uncertainty in an ever-changing world. Our teacher preparation program will not stray from its emphasis on these qualities because I believe, as a nation and state, we possess the ability to create such a system. I believe we have enough creative leaders to develop a means to evaluate teachers in ways that support their passion, independence, and ingenuity in helping students learn and achieve. What is less clear to me is whether our leaders share my sense of urgency about the future of our profession.
Appeared in New Haven Register: http://www.nhregister.com/opinion/20131113/forum-educators-held-hostage-by-system-of-standardized-testing
By: Nicole Kolej- English Teacher, Platt High School
It is not every day that your life is touched in such a way that you know you will never be the same again. For me, the day spent at Quinnipiac University attending the Echoes and Reflections workshop was one of those days. We attended a full day of hands-on Holocaust education. We talked about the real issues of the time period. We were educated on specific lessons and objectives. We talked through the pain, and also learned of the shift in our responsibility from teaching about the perpetrator to teaching about the survivor.
It was powerful in every sense of the word…so powerful that I was left speechless. As if this was not enough, we had the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to hear Ms Anita Schorr speak. Anita is a survivor of the concentration camps and of the Holocaust who spoke for just over an hour to us. We had the chance to meet her after she gave a short overview of her life, and we spoke closely with her for some of the most precious moments of my life. She has a tough, but calming spirit, a positive attitude, and most importantly, she is not angry. Her energy really spoke to me. Our students have extremely tough lives, and her message of hope and positivity can reach them now!
It has to, because she told us that as teachers, that is our job. We gave her our commitment to do everything that we can, as educators, to deliver this message. She speaks and tells her story so that the lives that were lost were not in vain, and so that her survival is not in vain. Most of all, she speaks so that we do not forget and we never let something like the Holocaust happen again.
The education that we received from the conference was invaluable, and the moments we were able to spend with her will last me a lifetime. It is essential for me, as a classroom teacher, teaching the literature of the Holocaust, to be able to have this information to impart onto my students. She is the ultimate primary source. One can travel the world, and have all of the money in the world but that does not matter. What matters is the resilience of the human spirit, and our impact. This day was a true reminder of that.
I can’t even begin to tell you how grateful I am to have been a part of the Echoes and Reflections conference. I have never been more inspired. We will definitely be incorporating the curriculum not only into our English classes, but also into the entire second half of the year in the Freshman Seminar. We will be going through each of the lessons throughout the semester in the seminar class. We also did an overview/mini lesson with our staff at our professional development day. They were very appreciative of the Pyramid of Hate. We also talked to the staff about the importance of enlightening the students on the importance of being an upstander, rather than a bystander, and the significant harm that is done when remaining silent while injustice is being done. We hope to have Anita Schorr come speak to our students in the spring, after the students read Elie Wiesel’s Night. The assembly will be open to the entire school.
Thank you to Qunnipiac University, Dr. Gloria Graves Holmes, and Marji Lipshez-Shapiro for hosting and facilitating this life-changing event.
By Professor Richard Guidone
NYT- No Diagnosis Left Behind Oct. 20, 2013
High stakes testing and ADHD- What accounts for the alarming increases in ADHD diagnosis in the general population? Stephen Henshaw, a professor at the University of California, noted a disparity between the uneven distributions geographically. North Carolina in 2007 reported that 15.6 percent of its students received an ADHD diagnosis while California had a 6.2 percent incidence. Why the vast disparity? When accounting for numerous factors he found a correlation between the implementation of No Child Left Behind laws and the rates of ADHD diagnosis. When a state passed a law punishing or rewarding schools for their standardized test scores, ADHD rates of diagnosis increase not long afterward. Nationwide, the rates of diagnosis increased by 22 percent in the first four years of NCLB.
NYT-An Industry of Mediocrity Oct. 21 2013
The title describes how the report by the National Council on Teacher Quality describes the current state of teacher education programs nationally. Blame is placed on many factors in trying to maintain the status quo when that will no longer do. Pockets of hope appear throughout the landscape however and much attention is focused on countries overseas that seem to do a better job than we do for a variety of reasons that can’t be duplicated here. But among the most promising practices are those followed by many charter schools who are building their own teacher training programs apart from the traditional offerings at many schools. The Woodrow Wilson program builds teacher training programs in partnership with local school districts. Prospective teachers spend a full year inside local schools working alongside veteran teachers then receive three years of postgrad mentoring in the classroom. The plan is to integrate teacher training with the schools so closely that it is analogous to medical residency.
New Haven Register-Asleep at the Switch in Nation’s Schools Oct 22, 2013
The ‘rising tide of mediocrity’ that the above article mentions is repeated here and is blamed on ‘our inflated sense of entitlement and ebbing initiative, what we expect and don’t expect of ourselves and of our children.’ As proof the author cites the Start School Later movement sweeping the country. The feeling is in many quarters that high school start times conflict with the natural rhythm and sleep requirements of high school age children and so some schools now start at 10:30 am to deal with this. Are these the same students we are sending out to do battle in the global economy, the writer, an English teacher in Vermont asks?
NYT-The Shanghai Secret Oct. 23, 2013
‘How is that Shanghai’s public secondary schools topped the world charts in the 2009 PISA(Program for International Assessment) exams that measure the ability of 15 year olds in 65 countries to apply what they learned in math, science and reading?’, asks Thomas Friedman, writer and former speaker at QU.
The Secret? There is no secret. There is a relentless focus by the staff on doing the things that teachers have been doing forever. Such as, a deep commitment to teacher training, peer to peer learning with constant professional development, deep involvement of parents in the child’s learning, an insistence on the highest standards of achievement and a culture that prizes education and respects teachers and teaching. The real secret is that the schools in Shanghai execute on more of these fundamentals in more of their schools more of the time.
Why do teachers quit? And why do they stay? Oct. 23, 2013 The Atlantic Magazine
Between 40%-50 % of new teachers will leave the profession within the first five years and that includes the almost 10% who will not make it through the first year. Turnover is common in all jobs but teaching has a 4% percent higher rate than others. As alarming is the fact that 40% of those pursuing an undergraduate degree in teaching will never set foot in the door of a school. “What people are asked to do is only the kind of thing that somebody can do for two or three years; you couldn’t sustain that level of intensity throughout a career,” said Thomas Smith, a professor at Vanderbilt University’s education school. He was referring specifically to charter schools, but his sentiment is one that resonates with many beginning teachers in challenging schools. A starting teacher salary in the U.S. is $35,672. If 40 to 50 percent of teachers leave the classroom within the first five years their career, that means that 50 to 60 percent of teachers stay. Who are they? Where are they teaching? What is keeping them? To find out read more at: http://www.schoolleadership20.com/profiles/blogs/why-do-teachers-quit-and-why-do-they-stay-by-liz-riggs?utm_source=October+27%2C+2013&utm_campaign=Oct+27+2013&utm_medium=email
Marion Sparago, secretary in the School of Education, has been recognized for her efforts with the university’s most prestigious staff honor, the Excellence in Service to Students. She was honored at the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Service to Students ceremony on Thursday, Oct. 24, in the Recreation Center on the Mount Carmel Campus.
Marion Sparago has been described as the guardian angel of the School of Education. Students, faculty and staff agree that her passion and commitment to students are as genuine as they are inspiring.
“Marion is the heart of the School of Education,” said Virginia Roussell, an education graduate student. “She is the first person one sees when entering the School of Education and her friendly greeting always makes one feel welcome. She is always willing to help anyone with any problem and she cares about each and every Master of Arts in Teaching student and is always looking out for their best interests.”
Sparago has also changed students’ lives for the better. Marta Musial, an education, received a phone call from Sparago moments after emailing her questions about the School of Education.
“We must have been on the phone for over an hour,” she recalls. “She took the time to explain each and every detail of the program, including internships, student teaching and clinical, what I needed in order to be accepted, a list of deadlines and resources to apply for financial aid. She was the sole reason I chose the school.”
Sparago has had such an impact on students that a number of songs and poems have been written in her honor. Among them, one to the tune of the “Ghostbusters” theme. “If you feel all alone, pick up the phone and call Marion Sparago,” the song was written by student Shayna Farese.
Rebecca Rice, an education student, said she is leaving a greater mark on students than she realizes.
“She is absolutely the glue that holds our education family together and I can’t imagine being a part of this incredible program without her,” Rice said. “Marion is an overall remarkable individual who pours her heart into everything she does – and no amount of praise or compliments can begin to properly describe how much everyone, including myself, appreciates her.”
“When I think about Marion, three words come to mind: selfless, caring and giving,” said Beth Larkins-Strathy, associate dean of the School of Education. “Marion is also a friend, someone I can share with, vent to and celebrate accomplishments with. I, like all of my colleagues in the School of Education, truly love this woman.”
“Marion is very capable and competent in handling not only the daily aspects of her position, but is always readily available to go out of her way to assist staff, students and visitors in dealing with a wide range of issues and problems,” said Don McCarthy, an adjunct professor of education.
“Many times she has stayed well beyond her normal workday to assist me and others in resolving last-minute situations that occur – from helping set up needed technology for a class, locating assigned teaching space to running those last-minute copies or helping fix the jam in that confounding copy machine. All through these situations, Marion always remains unflappable and never loses that effective smile. She is a great friend and co-worker who is deserving of this recognition.”
Sparago said she loves being able to work with the students, and is honored to be recognized by her peers and students.
“My goal is to ensure that each student is well taken care of and knows that I, and the School of Education, am available whenever he or she is in need of any assistance – whether it is a question relating to the program or someone to talk with or a shoulder on which to lean,” Sparago said. “I hope what I do in the School of Education has a positive impact on students. I guess because I have four daughters – three of whom have been through college – I have an idea of the pressures and stresses students can encounter, and if I can greet them with a smile and make them feel at home, I feel like I am accomplishing something.”
By Dianna Pategas