Professing Education
Dec,2002.Vol 1.No.1 P.7-P.9

Professing Education in Preparing Prospective Teachers

Dirk Windhorst

Redeemer University College

To profess education is to declare publicly one's faith in, or allegiance to, what Eisner (2002, p.35) calls a normative enterprise. That education is inherently normative can be seen in the Latin root, educere, "to lead out." Leading out presupposes a leader and a direction. The leader chooses a direction (a normative action) that she1 professes to be worthwhile, so much so in fact, that she desires others to follow. But there is a double sense to this "leading out." As the student is led in a certain direction chosen by a teacher, latent abilities are drawn out as well: the student becomes conscious of these abilities and accepts or declines the teacher's invitation to develop these gifts further.

In a pre-service program for elementary school teaching, a professor of education calls forth the undeveloped teaching abilities of his students. Through lectures, demonstrations, discussions and observations of practice teaching, she challenges them to become good planners, efficient classroom managers, assertive leaders, inspiring speakers, motivating coaches, gentle but firm admonishers, attentive observers, active listeners, and fair evaluators: in short, he invites them to the profession and art of teaching. In addition, a professor will invite student teachers to consider the theoretical and historical context in which the teaching profession is evolving and to remind them of their professional responsibility to pay attention to current issues in educational research. To lead prospective teachers in this task, many professors have a base of elementary teaching experience on top of which they continue to develop their vocations as scholars.

In the remainder of this article, I will briefly consider how the effect of the elementary teaching experience may shape a professor's view of his task. Basing this summary on my twenty-two years teaching at the upper elementary level and using what Beattie (1995, p. 10) calls "images of practice," I see that a teacher may develop through three distinct phases: the combat warrior, the craftsperson, and the artist.

Like a Piagetan schema, each image depicts how I understood myself as a teacher at a particular stage in my career. At the same time as it unified my professional self-concept, each image was a guide for my practice. Just as schemata change to accommodate new knowledge, so my images were transformed to reflect my professional growth with each new image containing the older one within it. In other words, the image of myself as an artist developed overtop of the craftsperson, so that when the artist lacked the energy or inspiration to make a lesson soar, the craftsperson could be called on to competently manage the class. Similarly, even though the combat warrior had receded from view, he could be called into active duty on a moment's notice if the need arose.

Every beginning teacher has to deal with the following issue: who is in charge of this class? I often would say to myself in the early years whenever I felt challenged by classroom misbehavior: "It's time to put on my combat gear." This aided me in adopting an assertive posture so that the students knew that I said what I meant, I meant what I said, and I would do what I said I was going to do (Coloroso, 1995).

Once basic power issues had been addressed, I felt confident to develop the craft of teaching. I learned that projecting confidence without a lesson plan was more effective than teaching from a well-prepared lesson without confidence. This is why experienced teachers are able to "wing it" for a day or two without the students realizing that anything is different. Like a carpenter, I often visualized myself putting on the tool belt of my trade at the beginning of a school day. These tacit tools were inside of me, not on my desk or in my plan book I began to develop the skill of knowing when it was necessary to "stray" from the lesson plan, to pay attention to the mood of the class or the struggles of an individual, to adjust my teaching style on the go, and to develop an openness for the teachable moment. I was now a competent journeyman in the teaching trade.

If a craftsperson is a very competent professional, then I would define an artist as a competent professional who has managed to infuse an essential part of his personal nature into his work. Ten years ago I noticed a qualitative change in my teaching _ I was growing beyond the competence of craft to something better. Somehow this was related to my enrollment in a master's program. Participation in thoughtful reading, discussion and writing of educational issues had the effect of invigorating my teaching. One direct result was my willingness to experiment with co-operative learning, non-directive teaching (Rogers, 1983), and invitational education (Purkey & Novak, 1984). My Grade 8 students responded enthusiastically.

Quite apart from this practical experimentation, I was grappling with deeper theoretical questions such as: What was the relationship between technology and education? What is the place of philosophy in educational administration? How could my teaching practice flow more authentically out of my Christian faith? Even though some of these questions did not have a direct bearing on my day-to-day classroom interactions, they did lend a thoughtfulness to my teaching style that somehow freed me to be more fully present for my elementary students.

It is somewhat immodest of me to write of my own experience in this manner. The foregoing is a distillation of what I have learned; space forbids me to enumerate all the mistakes I made along the way. Nevertheless, this distillation guides me as I profess education with my students.

References

Beattie, M. (1995). Beginning with myself: My own story of teaching and learning. In M. Beattie, Constructing personal knowledge in teaching: A narrative of change and development (pp. 1- 32). Toronto: OISE Press.

Coloroso, B. (1995). Kids are worth it! Giving your child the gift of inner discipline. Toronto: Somerville House Publishing.

Eisner, E. W. (2002). The educational imagination: On the design and evaluation of school programs (3rd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merrill Prentice Hall.

Purkey, W. W., & Novak, J. M. (1984). Inviting school success. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Rogers, C. R. (1983). Freedom to learn for the 80's. Columbus: Charles E. Merrill.


1 Where the antecedent is not gender-specific, singular personal pronouns will alternate between masculine and feminine forms.