In the summer of 2009, I was asked to co-lead the Teacher Preparation Initiative at St. Cloud State University. Back then, it was not yet TPI, but an idea, a vision, an opportunity to identify how we could improve teacher education at SCSU. At that point, it was our job to figure out what faculty and P-12 partners thought we should do to prepare more effective teachers. We needed to write a proposal to get funding, and so we set out to gather ideas from stakeholders about what needed to be done.
We knew folks had big, radical, game-changing ideas for teacher education. Yet, when we asked them to identify what we should be doing in terms of recruiting, preparing, placing and supporting our teacher candidates, they kept getting stuck.
“We don’t have the people, the money, the resources”.
“It would be too hard.”
“We have always done it this way, the administration would never let us do it that way”.
It seemed that it was easier to identify why we couldn’t change. The other co-director, in a moment of brilliance, said to the group
“We want you to wave your magic wand. Pretend we have all the money and resources in the world. No one is going to tell us no. What would you change about teacher preparation?”
At first, they looked at us like we were a little nuts. They were probably right…we had to be a little nuts to be willing to take on a project like this. Yet, someone spoke up, and started describing their ideas for supporting our teacher candidates through induction. When another person started to explain why it wouldn’t work, someone said “Hey, this is my magic wand.” The energy in the room immediately exploded and we could barely capture all of the amazing, well-conceived, and truly radical ideas that people had obviously been thinking about for a long time.
We used this “magic-wand” approach with over 450 stakeholders, and used the ideas to write the grant, create the vision for TPI, develop the charges for our collaboration structures, and ultimately, make recommendations for changing, improving, and adding to our teacher education program at SCSU.
I will use this blog to keep you updated on the processes, recommendations, successes and challenges of TPI. As we bring forth ideas and approaches that push the envelope and challenge all of us to think differently about how we do our work at all levels, I hope that you are willing to listen, and consider how these recommendations might not only better prepare our teacher candidates, but ultimately provide a more effective and supportive learning environment for our P-12 students.
If you could wave your magic wand, what would you to do to improve teacher education?