A Sense of Something
I have been pondering my first three weeks as chair, colleague, and faculty member in the teacher education department here at UNK. My time has been fantastic. I feel welcome. I feel like I am starting to figure this out. I feel like I am starting to make a difference. However, there are a few things that leave me with trepidation. As I walk through the halls, have conversations, and learn more and more about who we are and what we do, I feel that there is something missing. We need a sense of something. We need something to bring us together. We need to build a sense of community.
I know this is sophomoric, but an online dictionary defines community as, “A group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common.” We are teacher educators. This is what we have in common. At the same time, we must all work toward the common good.
I want to address the three areas of what we do.
A Community of Scholars
As teacher education scholars, we spend a lot of time diving into the details. We reframe. We create. We discover. We redo. It is our nature. However, when that motivation causes us to attack our colleagues, it becomes toxic. Our innate need to understand the details, to research, and know more can become a hindrance at times. However, this is who we are. We all care about education, knowing about education, and improving education. But, there is more.
There was recently a long discussion about graduate faculty status. Reading through the discussion left me frustrated. To me, there is a difference between the letter of the law and the spirit of the law. When we go by the letter of the law, we don’t consider everything. Looking at things in a binary leaves us in a dangerous place. In cases like this we should be supporting each other. We should be looking for reasons to advance our colleagues. When we do, we advance ourselves. The better each one of us does, the better we all do. We need to grow. We need to be a community of scholars. And in this, we must work together. We must share skills. We must share time. Most importantly, we must help each other move forward.
A Community of Teachers
So, since I have arrived, the one thing I have noticed is the high quality and enthusiasm for teaching. I walk by classrooms and energetic teachers and motivated students. I think I know why. It is who we are. Teaching is fun. It is our life blood. And, we want other people to do well. But, again, there is a second side to this. As a faculty member, part of our teaching responsibility is advising. And we must be great advisors. We must have conversations. We need to motivate. We need to respond to students when they have questions. Every time. We need to take care of OUR students. When are students are confident, informed, and motivated, they can go our and do great things.
A Community of Service
The final part of our triad is service. Within our department, we need things to be done. And, we need to do the things we are supposed to do. When we have jobs to do, we need to do them. We need to not only be active in our department, college, and university, but in the community. Education is in a rare position of being in every part of a student’s life. There is the education, but there is also a sense of belonging. We feed them. We nurture them. Many times we are stand in parents. Because of this, we need to be involved in the community. I know many of you are and I praise your work. But, this is something we all need to do. Including me. We need to give back to the community. An education based on the community is a better education.
These first three weeks have been wonderful. I am meeting people. I am making new friends. I have found colleagues with passions that energize me. But we, together, need to be well-rounded in what we do. We need to support each other. We need to take care of our students. We need to do our jobs to the best of our ability.
If you would like to chat about this, shoot me a message.
Education is one of the slowest professions to change. We have been using the same classroom layout since the Jesuit schools in the 1400s. The content only changes with time and we make new discoveries and new works are written. The way that we teach, while diversifying, is many times the archaic direct instruction. Many theories are decades old. Over and over and over we try to change policy to improve student achievement. And the policies are only new versions of the old. And student achievement stagnates.
And what have we done? We have crippled our education system through assessment, review, testing, and teaching reproducible content. We have made education predictable. In many ways, we have made it common. Where is the vision of critical thinking? Where is the movement to creativity? We test. We review. We remediate. All for what? Wasn’t it Albert Einstein that said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” Well, that is where we are. Our education system is insanity.
So, as we embark on this new semester, I think a key word that we need to adopt is flexibility. Some of us are face to face. Some online. Some both. And, things could change. We need to be flexible. We need to be able to change. Change is going to happen. Instead of fighting it, we need to embrace it.
We are all in a time of great potential. We can try things. We can experiment with new technologies. We can experiment with new pedagogies. We can flip classrooms, twist up our lessons, and create new forms of assessment. Now is a time to be creative. Now is a time to be critical of our practices and experiment.
So, to each of you, I urge you to try something new this semester—something you have never done before. It is okay to fail. Turn that failure into a lesson. Teach our students that one of the greatest skills we have is to create.
Hello everyone! My name is Andrew Thomas Kemp. My parents gave me that name because they thought it would sound good if I ever became president. My middle name, Thomas, was my paternal grandfather’s name. His name was Thomas Eugene Kemp. While I was born with the name Andrew, I go by Drew to people that know me. Andrew is my professional name (for scholarship), but people I know call me Drew. And, I am Drew. While I love my name (there aren’t that many Drews out there), it was problematic when I was a child because it happens to rhyme with something that children loved to taunt me with. Yet, I am still Drew. I am not Andy. I am not AT. Just, Drew.
You might be wondering why I am sharing this.
We are teacher educators. Our job is to help create fantastic teachers. Our job is to create teachers that teach all children. When I say that, I mean all children. And those teachers that we are helping to become teachers (and ourselves) must respect the identity of each and every student that we have. What does that mean? We must learn to pronounce names. We must teach our students to pronounce names. We must learn to not make a subtle face (microaggression) when we read a name that is odd (I have had students names Tekela, Porsche, Korvette, and Thorn Bush). We all identify with our names.
At the same time, we all identify with our pronouns. I am a he/him/his. My wife is a she/her/hers. However, there are people that identify with other pronouns and we, as educators, must respect those identities.
In our department, we have a student that uses the pronouns they/them/theirs. This is how they identify themselves. This is their identity. This is who they are. I know for some people this is awkward or problematic. Don’t let it be. It is a name. It is personal. They work in our department. They deserve our respect.
And this goes for everyone you meet. When you meet someone, you won’t know her/his/their name. You ask. You introduce. At the same time you won’t know how she/him/they identify. You might get it wrong. If corrected, you need to respect that and work to use the preferred pronoun.
We, as teacher educators, have the responsibility to not only teach all students, but to respect all students. And each other.
If you have questions about this, please feel free to come and talk to me.
Have a wonderful Friday!
As we prepare to embark on what is going to prove to be a fickle fall 2020 semester, there are a few things I would like to share with you. Let’s call them my Tuesday thoughts. Most importantly, there is something that is utmost importance to me. Respect. We are an assemblage of colleagues with a common goal—creating a better education system through teacher education, research, scholarship, and service. With that in mind I have a few thoughts.