My Not Yet Completed Journey to Inclusive and Effective Teaching

Elizabeth H. Rowell, Ph.D., Professor

Department of Elementary Education
Rhode Island College


My journey to become an inclusive and effective educator of teachers has been an unmapped expedition with many unexpected detours. It has often proved to be inspiring, rewarding, and life changing. I sometimes wonder why I am so committed to multicultural and antibias education. I weave facets of these approaches into every course I teach as well as in much of my professional work on and off campus and in my private life. In my early childhood education methods classes my students must do an autobiographical study of their literacy/language arts backgrounds. As these classes deal with youngsters from prebirth through grade two, I urge my teacher candidates to try to find memories from their earliest years. This focused look into their pasts provides a personal background of memories that can enhance their future work with young children. In the same manner, looking back at my own roots as part of a NECIT group project has helped me to see how events in my past helped me embrace inclusive education and why I continue to wrestle with how to help my students do the same.

My Childhood Passageway into Inclusiveness

While I was growing up, I felt secure, valued, and happy. I loved my different home environments, although some of my friends often felt a little uncomfortable on their first visits. As I look back on those treasured years living in different state mental hospitals where my father worked, I realize that my journey toward being an inclusive educator started when I was a young child who had "uncle" and "aunt" patients who played with the small groups of staff children living on the grounds. My parents always admonished us to "Be nice!" to the patients and their visitors to whom we sold used comic books and watered- down lemonade. My father won national awards for making these institutions more humane and each holiday season he took us to make "the rounds" in some wards that had few visitors. He mentioned often how generous many of the Jewish people and the Salvation Army groups from a nearby large city were. They spent time with the patients and contributed items that were greatly appreciated by those who seldom received gifts. My father, who didn't seem to be very religious and only joined the local Lutheran church because the pastor would let the patients shake his hand and hug him, valued religion in his own special way and started raising funds to build an All Faith's Chapel on the grounds. After he died, memorial donations enabled it to be completed and space was allocated for different religions, which was rather unique at that time in a small town in Texas.

During my formative years, I watched as my father complimented patients on their hair or the good care they were taking of their fish, birds, or even babies (dolls). I listened while he looked at the occasional child patient and noted sadly that children did not belong in these hospitals but that this was the only place now available for some. He answered my questions about the patients who had large facial growths or double leg amputations and shared how difficult life was for these people. When we lived for a short time in a hospital for those who had epilepsy, our dad immediately introduced our family to a young patient, Maria, and her parents who were from Mexico. We attended functions with the family and Maria became a big part of my life. Later in another hospital where we were required to have someone working in our home, my father hired the first black state hospital employee. Evelyn became a family friend and that racial bridge was crossed smoothly in this small Texas town.

When I was almost four, my father was fired and given three days to get out of Texas with his small family after a candidate he had vocally campaigned against became governor. But when he quickly found a job in Michigan, there was no place for us on the hospital grounds. Due to a housing shortage in the Detroit area, we lived for a year in a four family, one bathroom house, next to a busy highway and right in front of a large city dump. My mother found such creative ways to cope with young children and only one bathroom that I chuckle about them today. My sister and I thrived in this exotic new living arrangement. Sometimes the two sisters would go on treasure hunts in the dump, realizing that one person's garbage might be useful items or toys. My greatest ambition at that time was to be as big as my five-year-older sister so that I could hit the rats on the head with the broom when they invaded our clean rooms. My mother would scream and I would jump up and down on the furniture to scare the rodents so my brave sister could do her broom magic. Later, when I shared this goal of what I wanted to be in life with my first grade teacher, she winced and gave me a disdainful look that I still remember.

When we eventually got housing on the hospital grounds we first had a tiny three-room apartment and my sister and I slept in the living room. These sometimes less than desirable living conditions helped me intuitively to understand many things about economics, housing, and families from a young child's perspectives, which sometimes differed greatly from those a bit older. I often share some of these experiences with my teacher candidates to help them validate their own unique backgrounds and to help them better understand their future students who might come from very diverse settings.

Early School and Other Ventures Toward Inclusiveness

I attended elementary school in a housing project where my classmates' parents worked in factories. Some were very poor and one girl, Nancy, who had few friends, usually brought a biscuit for lunch. Once when I got a stocking filled with candies and little toys at a church gathering, my mother gently encouraged me to give it to Nancy. When I did, Nancy almost cried. The next day, she gave me an orange handkerchief neatly ironed that I treasured for years. Later, when I needed a new cardigan sweater, I told my parents about one that Nancy wore that was a pretty shade of blue, had wooden buttons, and "scratched." My mother found out where Nancy had gotten her unusual garment and we made a trip to that very cut-rate store so I could have one just like hers. In those days, it was considered the equivalent of "cool" to wear the same outfit as a friend. Although Nancy and I weren't really close friends, I learned so much from these experiences and I often think about her and our lovely, blue, "scratchy sweaters" with the wooden buttons.

When we moved from Michigan back to Texas we were shocked by such visible displays of segregation as "white only" and "colored only" signs. My father often volunteered to transport black patients to other states, as he knew the trip through the south would be hard for them. Upon his return he would share how they often had to all eat and sleep in the car. I wasn't personally aware of much bigotry and degradation of people who were "different" until High School, where I was often teased about a boyfriend who was an outstanding violinist and a Mexican. He played for my sister's wedding, introduced me to the joys of being in the school orchestra, and had a positive impact on my life. Today, although legalized segregation is no longer with us, many Americans, because of differences in race, ability, gender orientation, religion, or other areas, still face prejudice and discrimination, and future early childhood educators must be aware of these issues.

My parents completed their higher education and started their careers during the Depression. They economized throughout their lives, as did many who experienced those tough times. The Depression and my father's firing both left their marks and our parents encouraged us to be frugal and to work hard on our studies. My sister and I considered our family to be poor. Our mother made most of our clothes, we preserved vegetables for the winter from our garden, we drove "Chevies," we loved our sweet mongrel dog, and we carefully watched our spending as we were also supporting my father's parents. Sometimes we would have family conversations about whether Daddy should go into private practice and make more money or continue to work in the state hospitals doing what he valued so much. The children's voices were always heard but there was really no question. We loved our life and wanted our father to continue to do the work he enjoyed.

We didn't feel deprived but money was sometimes used to keep me "in check." We were "programmed" by our parents to want to attend state colleges and my years at the University of Texas were valuable learning experiences and truly eye openers. When I wanted to live in a more expensive dorm, I was told we couldn't afford it, so I ended up in a co-op where we had daily chores with students who were putting themselves through school as many of our RIC students are today. I learned so much about people and about critical functional skills, such as how to cook liver for 23 people and sanitize 12 huge garbage cans each Saturday. When the University opened to black undergraduates our co-op put an announcement in the student paper that we welcomed applications from all students. We were shocked when we received some nasty and hateful replies. I also changed churches after I was asked to sit in the balcony when I brought some black friends one Sunday. My quiet, letter writing, "fight city hall" days started as I campaigned for three years to get women into the university marching band. In my senior year I was the first female since World War Two to be a "Cowboy" Band member.

We began that year with four girls and expanded to ten, with 150 white and Hispanic cowboys. While working in the band hall as an assistant librarian, I heard some magnificent saxophone sounds. I peeked into the audition room and noted that the musician was black. When I later asked the director if the young man would be accepted, he looked at me sadly and told me that he got girls in this year, and couldn't integrate the band any more right now. The next year, there were black "cowboys" along with more "cowgirls" marching.

As a student, I struggled and worked hard but never did as well as my brilliant sister who made only one B in college (and that was in horse back riding). Our mother demanded good grades and provided much structure and encouragement. However, I was labeled an "overachiever." According to my group and later individual IQ tests, I should not have been doing as well as I was. I felt like a cup of tea that was too full but for some strange reason still contained the liquid. My parents were called in for many conferences about testing issues and I was advised to leave the University after I did not do well on a pilot entrance exam given the first week of classes. I was told that I would never graduate and if I did so, would only make Cs and Ds. I refused, of course, as I wanted to be a teacher. In college, I usually had to read materials three times, type up both my class and text notes, and review constantly. Each paper I wrote had to be rewritten several times. I organized many "study dates and get togethers" with friends that included walking to and from the library, separating for individual learning time, and meeting for ten minutes every hour. I share my own learning struggles with my students to help them understand that each of them will also have to determine how to meet his/her own special study needs.

I continued to push myself, and often made the Dean's list while taking too many classes and being involved in a variety of activities. Part of my motivation to later earn a doctorate was to prove to myself that I could earn the Ph.D. (Yes, labeling by others including educators and psychologists does often have a lasting effect on the labeled.) Today, I try to be supportive of our students who must pass designated state tests to student teach. I urge them to go to the Counseling Center about test anxiety issues and participate in special sessions that are held about these crucial tests. Our Department continually struggles over issues about students who might someday be very effective teachers but have problems passing these examinations. I also urge my teacher candidates to be advocates for their young children and to use a variety of assessments including skillful observation when grading and placement decisions are made.

As I look back on my life, I realize that my early experiences in my loving home, the unique environments in which we lived, and the examples my parents provided all helped me to be a more inclusive person in terms of economic, racial, ability, and religious differences. However, my parents were gentle people and usually did things quietly. It took many years and other types of experiences before I would come out of my quiet little closet and fight more vocally for inclusion in many different settings. I try to empower my students to be positive and powerful advocates for young children and others now as well as later when they are "real" teachers.

Exploring the World of Pedagogy

When I was twelve years old I made the decision to become a teacher as a direct result of two different classroom experiences. In the seventh grade I had a teacher who made learning about history seem tedious and boring. The next year I was fortunate to have one who made the subject come alive. I realized that it was truly the teacher who made the difference and I wanted to be the one who could make learning interesting!

Although I changed my mind about what to teach, I eventually realized I could promote all the subjects I enjoyed so much, including music, history, and reading as an elementary teacher, and received my B.S. in Elementary Education from the University of Texas. There is nothing like learning a profession from the ground up, and thus I commenced my new career as a first grade teacher in an inner city school in Dallas, Texas. When I first entered that classroom with its forty-one desks, I wrote Miss Rowell on the chalkboard and felt I had "made it." The next day when the forty-three students arrived, I realized that I really did love teaching but that I had a lot to learn as a novice teacher of so many lively little ones. A book I enjoyed reading to my class was "The Rabbits' Wedding" (Williams, 1958), which featured two lonely rabbits, one white and one black, who fell in love and produced spotted bunnies. At the end of my second year of teaching, our principal advised the first grade teachers that we shouldn't read this book anymore as integration was coming and he didn't want us to have any problems with parents who might find this book to be offensive. I continued to and still use this wonderful book. However, this experience has helped me to relate to students who are hesitant to use some types of diversity books with their children. As it is crucial for youngsters to see themselves in classroom materials, I collect and share books that would be easy for even the most hesitant educators to use and would help to validate young children's special experiences. My students must select books often from special collections on Reserve under my name and their courses that they would use to promote an understanding of many different types of diversity. In later courses I often see them using some of these materials!

I continued to enjoy learning about and practicing my chosen profession as I taught in four states: Texas, Colorado, Alaska, and New York. Later as I wanted to learn more about other parts of the world, I went on an extended working holiday in the following nine countries: Japan, Australia, New Zealand, New Guinea, Chile, Aruba, Mexico, South Africa, and Libya. During this time I was often placed in a variety of needed teaching positions and taught the equivalent of grades K- 12 and adult ESL.

In each of these settings, I learned a great deal about the impact of the local culture on the educational process. For example, while teaching grades 2-6, whole school music, and even a mixed grade level class in a copper mining community in Chile, an air force base in Japan, and oil refineries in Aruba and Libya, I learned how to deal with government and company politics that extended into the classrooms as well as the culture of the community. In New Guinea, where I taught music and several other subjects in a high school in the bush country (without electricity), our students were experiencing the culture shock of being the first in their families to learn how to speak English, read, and experience Western ways. The international faculty grappled with the best way to prepare these students for the cultural change their country was about to undergo and help them still feel pride in their background. In Mexico, my second grade students from very wealthy homes soon showed me that some of their expressions I felt were inappropriate were very fitting for their culture. My five year old Maoris in New Zealand and my quiet second grade Native American Indians in Alaska all taught me about the significance of bringing what was important to them into our classroom. I gained so many insights about the influence of culture on life and teaching while working with the Maori, Haida, and Papuan teachers. In South Africa, I was thrown into a highly segregated society, which of course had its impact upon the children, the schools, and me. In Australia, where I taught five different subjects in a high school in a difficult part of Sydney and later was a replacement teacher every hour of the day to permit primary teachers to have a break in Melbourne, the importance of appropriate classroom management and a sense of humor both came into play. However, teaching adults English at night in Japan, Chile and Mexico helped me to realize the importance of functional or practical learning. The delight my students expressed when they finally grasped some words or phrases that were important for their work was evident and inspired me to continue to devise better ways to convey the English language to them.

In some situations, I taught English at night to the parents of the children I taught in English during the day. It was an interesting way to get to know the learning styles of the entire family. In New Guinea, Japan, Chile, Libya, and Mexico I also learned more about the meanings of different religions to my students, parents, and colleagues and how religious beliefs and practices could impact school experiences and learning. For example in New Guinea, missionaries had taught the high school students that people should not work on the Sabbath. Unfortunately, as we did not have electricity, wood had to be gathered daily and food cooked on the wood stoves for the 200 students. On one occasion the girls refused to work on Sunday and as a result had no evening meal that day or breakfast on Monday morning as there was no wood to use in the stoves. This situation had to be very carefully dealt with so that the students felt secure in their religious beliefs but could also help the school community function on the Sabbath.

Living and working in these different situations helped me to better understand the impact that the culture of the home, community, and country can have on education. I try to help the teacher candidates feel pride in their own home, culture, and language. I urge those who speak another language to consider getting bilingual endorsement. I caution them about using religious materials or emphasizing certain holidays with their students as some children might feel excluded. I sometimes share experiences that I had while trying to learn more about how to effectively teach students in different cultures, to help the teacher candidates explore how they can get to know more about their future students to enhance their work with them. To help them empathize more with parents and students who are new to our country, I share how I felt when I was the only American in a community, or could not get where I needed to go or the food I craved because I did not speak the appropriate language. They also brainstorm ways that they have used reading in the last 24 hours as adults in a highly literacy country and then discuss what their lives would be like if they couldn't read English! Usually when the large class is split up into small groups for different activities we count off in different languages which I and eventually classmates demonstrate. I discuss how important it is to be respectful of the language that is being taught because it could be from a child's home. We sometimes have to role play this several times before the giggles disappear and the students pronounce (or mispronounce) the new number words with gusto and reverence.

After returning to the United States while working in a junior high school in a small rural Texas town, I offered to teach the 34 sixth graders who did not know how to read above a third grade level for one period a day to relieve their class teacher. At that time, I had had no special training in reading but wanted to know how to help these very challenging youngsters. After a third visit, the principal was convinced that they were working very diligently and making gains. He would not require them to "read" the 6th grade basal reader! In this school we had several teachers who had burned out. One even went to sleep at her desk, while the students were present. As I walked in the halls, I often wondered what it would be like to be in the classes of those who sounded so uninspired and I envied the teachers who made their students light up with learning. This experience convinced me that I needed to know more about teaching, motivation, and reading, and I resigned to pursue my Ph.D. in reading at the University of Connecticut, in an area where I could also enjoy my favorite sport, alpine skiing.

From the "Real World" to the "Halls of Ivy"

While at the University of Connecticut, as the result of a fellowship, I had an opportunity to teach reading methods courses and see if I could truly give up teaching youngsters every day to be with college students. I enjoyed this new age group, but even after I was employed by Rhode Island College, I continued to work for several years in a small rural school in Connecticut. It was difficult to break away from being a "real teacher" of youngsters to become a professor of older students.

Going from teaching forty-three inner city first graders, the lowest of five ability groups of children who had not been to kindergarten, to teaching graduate and undergraduate students in early childhood education has been a fascinating journey. My rich prior experiences gained while teaching different grades and subjects in many diverse communities helped prepare me for my work at RIC where I first served on the reading faculty and taught the different courses that were then offered. My time as Department Chair also widened my horizons and enhanced my perspectives. After the arrival of our sons, who inspired me to take additional courses about young children and do research in early childhood literacy, I was asked to join the Early Childhood Faculty and now teach several beginning literacy/language arts courses and the early childhood graduate curriculum class. I have also recently had a new General Education course on disability issues from a cross-cultural perspective approved. While at RIC I have team taught courses, conducted six day workshops and competency based classes, taught courses in school settings, and experimented with including different forms of media and technology. Each semester I revise my syllabi and try to enhance my content and techniques. I frequently attend the Winter Writing Workshop for faculty and different types of professional development opportunities that are offered on campus. However, I often discover that visiting the classes taught by colleagues or spontaneous discussions that focus on college teaching challenges and solution attempts are very helpful in promoting positive changes in my own teaching. The recent NECIT study group that I participated in proved to be a very insightful learning experience.

Am I Dreaming an Impossible Dream?

As a result of my own experiences living and working with different cultural groups in diverse settings as well as dealing with some of the realities of being a minority member in some majority groups that were sometimes hostile to Americans and/or to persons who did not speak fluently the language of the community, I am very committed to diversity, inclusion, and anti-bias issues, and weave these concerns into my classes.

The students in my two undergraduate early childhood methods courses are predominately single white females who have had a wide range of prior experiences working with young children, and are very committed to early childhood education. Most of these juniors or seniors are in their late teens or early twenties and are working as well as attending college. Each semester I usually have several who are slightly older and some who have children of their own. In recent semesters there has also been at least one student in each class who is Hispanic or Asian. Some students each semester are also bilingual or have a foundation in another language that is spoken in their home, and occasionally there is one who is working hard to learn English. However, a few of these students are often hesitant about revealing their expertise in several languages until much later in the semester. As my courses revolve around reading and speaking English, I share my problems living in countries in which I did not know the language and the unique challenges educators have to help youngsters learn how to speak and communicate in a new language. I also provide the teacher candidates with insights I gained while working with my 34 second graders in Alaska who spoke five different languages. I learned so much about how educators must be out spoken advocates for these little ones who do not usually measure well on cognitive tests given in English! My students also brainstorm methods for communicating with parents who do not know much English, are illiterate, have different forms of disabilities, do not have phones or are unable to attend school meetings.

My desire is to help produce effective inclusive teachers who will have the potential to enhance young children's learning about literacy, the language arts and diversity, as well as promote a proactive antibias commitment. However, two issues in particular seem problematic for my students. I find that some are still very vehement in their views about marriage and have stated that they will not teach children from same sex parented families or utilize any children's book that even has a picture of a family with two moms or two dads. As these future teachers might someday have children from gay/lesbian families in their classes even in private/parochial schools, I keep exploring ways to help them realize that they need to modify their positions to help their pupils. Most of my students also know very little about how to weave disability related topics into their curriculum. I am fortunate that I am in literacy and language arts education that focuses on teaching crucial skills/strategies that can be developed using many different techniques and materials. However, I need to continue to explore ways to enhance my efforts in these two areas.

One of my most burning issues is how to teach a crucial area such as early childhood literacy/language arts effectively so that my students will be motivated to study and continue to learn as well as share their expanding knowledge, ideas, and professional concerns. My undergraduate students are usually actively involved in the RIC classroom by role playing, having discussions, watching pertinent media clips, critiquing materials, and teaching lessons related to what we have done on campus in an early childhood classroom each week. However, many are reluctant to read their texts or do out of class assignments that help to bridge the gap between the text and their own lives. Some are also very hesitant to discuss their opinions and concerns with the class, although sealed lips often open up after a few minutes of focused "pair share" time. I have "clear and observable learning objectives" (Bartlett, 2004) for all my classes and have utilized short tests, one page written assignments based on the text that averaged together count the same as exams, and/or handwritten notes on aspects of the text that students bring to class and discuss. The short tests and written assignments proved to be the best indicators of outside reading and reflecting but the complaints about too much work were duly registered at the end of the semester. Currently student ratings reveal that although many say they learn a lot, it is very obvious that they think I am too demanding.

The need to include more course content is due to the continually evolving standards movement, the addition of materials that were once contained in other courses, and new research findings about these crucial areas and young children. Although a recent program revision increases the credit load for these two courses, I need to come to better grips with how to get today's students to put forth the necessary effort that is needed on their part. How can I continue to fulfill my dream of being a college educator who motivates her students to become life long, enthusiastic, knowledge based, and effective teachers?

Helping our teacher candidates learn how to communicate more effectively in print is also a crucial concern because they must write lesson plans, letters to parents, correspond with administrators, and compose on the chalkboard in a professional manner while teaching often without the luxury of time to edit and revise. Grammar, word usage, and noun-pronoun-verb agreement are problems that consistently interfere with some students' ability to convey their ideas effectively. We discuss the importance of communicating in appropriate ways with parents, other teachers, school teams, and administrators. Many of the students from other countries who are in our program have compounded difficulties in writing in English. I give writing suggestions to my students, identify areas of concern, and grade their papers on content as well as mechanics, using the necessary rubrics. Some apply themselves and eliminate or minimize problematic areas; others continue to receive "reservations" for continuing in the early childhood program due to writing difficulties. It would be beneficial to our entire department if we could find better ways to minimize or eliminate these concerns.

What Seems To Work for Me and Needed Enhancements

A teaching theory that I share with my teacher candidates is Holdaway's Natural Learning Model (Holdaway, 1979, 1986). Holdaway theorizes that learning is a cultural, social, and personal matter that starts at the beginning of life. His Natural Learning Model includes the following four major components: observation, collaboration, practice, and performance. Interestingly, although in class we focus on how Holdaway's Model can "naturally" be effective for promoting young children's growth and development in literacy and the language arts, I find that it often works with my teacher candidates. For example readings are assigned that include illustrations and examples to give teacher candidates an opportunity to observe something about teaching such as a particular instructional method. In class I show video clips and/or demonstrate how to effectively utilize the method with discussions as to the rationale, research base, underlying philosophy, problems, etc. Collaboration and practice occur when the teacher candidates are divided into small groups in which they take turns role-playing the teacher while the others revert to being young children, sometimes in a designated type of group such as first graders in an inner city or rural setting or kindergartners who are learning English. During this time, there are frequent short interruptions for clarification and discussion.

After each teacher candidate has role played some aspect of the method, the students confer about what transpired. If the instructional method is one they will be implementing in their school placements, the field teachers also demonstrate their versions of the model with their kindergarten or first grade classes. Finally in regard to performance, my teacher candidates plan, teach with modifications as necessary, and then reflect on their experiences in their field school setting with a group of young children. Usually they seem to especially enjoy these in-class and field experiences and also appear to learn a great deal from them as is evident from their written reflections. I have also found that giving students choices and time to collaborate in groups with challenging activities also proves beneficial to the teacher candidates. They appear to feel more comfortable working with each other as the class progresses.

To help smooth progress in the class, I utilize aspects of Maslow's Motivational theory (Henniger, 1999, 84). His theory conjectures that before individuals can reach self actualization that their basic physiological and safety needs and growth needs, including belongingness, esteem, understanding and knowledge, as well as aesthetics, must be met. We discuss Maslow's Motivational Theory in regard to the teacher candidate's future work with young children and how to determine each child's motivation needs. However, I also utilize it to try enhance the college class environment and promote each teacher candidate's own motivation.

In regard to Maslow's basic physiological needs, I share with my teacher candidates that as young children appear to learn and function better when they are not hungry, many public schools and all Head Start programs provide food. A morning snack break is usually allotted for young children in all types of public and private school settings, and most early childhood educators are prepared to offer some type of carefully selected snack to the little ones whose parents do not provide one. I have found that the same philosophy regarding the importance of nourishment appears to apply to our busy teacher candidates, most of whom are working and going to school. My students can eat or drink in my classes. However, they must tidy up carefully and I always patrol the room afterwards. In addition, while discussing the importance of the physical conditions of early childhood classrooms, I endeavor to attend to lighting and heat in our windowless classrooms but warn the teacher candidates that the "layered look" is crucial attire at RIC. In regard to Safety I try to provide consistency and fairness by giving my students comprehensive course outlines, handouts, and rubrics to serve as resources for them. Unfortunately, a few do not utilize them well even though they have acknowledged that they have initially read and reflected on them. To try to provide a safety valve for anxiety, I invite Dr. Jan Park from the Counseling Center to share information about the Center and its privacy policy as well as to give some quick stress reduction tips. One semester two students volunteered that they had gone to the Center. It had been a very positive experience and they were recommending The Counseling Center to others, as they knew it was a safe place for them to go for help.

Although I feel somewhat comfortable with Maslow's Basic Needs Category I constantly have to rethink what I do in regard to Growth Needs. In reference to the Belonging Category, most of the teacher candidates seem to feel that they belong to, and are part of, their cooperative learning and field placement groups. However, I need to find better ways to encourage them to use these groups to enhance their outside of class learning efforts. They also have several activities in which they select appropriate children's books about their own special interests such as snow boarding, cooking, sleeping, etc., and plan how to utilize them in appropriate ways to promote literacy and language arts development. As they share this information about their own lives, they seem to also enjoy learning about their classmates' different interests. In regard to Understanding And Knowledge I need to ascertain how to deal more realistically from the students' viewpoints with the enhanced content of the now-four credit courses. There is an expanding body of knowledge regarding literacy/language arts and state as well as national mandates about these areas that our teacher candidates need to grasp. However, somehow I must make "more" to learn and understand seem like "less" or "not so much." In the Aesthetics area, I can find ways to have the teacher candidates help to quickly enhance the appearance of our classroom by better organizing and displaying the different materials we will be using for each class. An additional sabbatical project for me will be to better organize my office to make it more welcoming.

All of these efforts and projects are to help the teacher candidates meet their Self-Actualization dreams to become effective (and employed) early childhood educators and also my additional aspirations for them that they each have a life-long thirst for enhanced professional development as well as model and promote a high regard for learning, diversity, and a proactive antibias spirit. Many are very diligent and show continual growth. Others need to put in additional effort. Although I strive to include positive comments along with constructive suggestions, some students do not understand that ideas for improvement are meant to enhance their future work in the class, field, school, and eventually as teachers. I need to find more effective ways to communicate this so that those who need to work harder can realize that it is possible for them to achieve their dreams and that constructive suggestions are not meant to lower their self esteem but rather to help them.

My Yellow Brick Road Journey Has Not Yet Reached Oz

From a crowded inner city first grade classroom in Big D(allas) to a small college in the Ocean State, I have traveled on my pedagogical yellow brick road journey filled with concerns about how to be more inclusive and effective. The role of teacher educators is even more compounded, as we are the teachers of teachers. If we do not help our teacher candidates learn or "discover" the appropriate content, methods, attitudes, and views of their roles, they might not be successful teachers of young children. If we can't inspire them to want to continue to develop themselves professionally, they might quickly become "outdated." I realize that I am still at a point in my journey where I need to continue to contemplate, study, inquire, and revise my teaching strategies to better meet my dreams of being more inclusive and effective with today's teacher candidates and program changes. The recent NECIT study group in which I participated provided fuel for more reflection and inquiry as an additional focus for my upcoming sabbatical. My never ending quest to teach more effectively and inclusively is truly a Don Quixote-like endeavor but I hope it is not an impossible dream!

Works Citied

Bartlett, T. (9/17/2004). Taking control of the classroom, Article emailed to the RIC faculty by Dan King 9/15/2004 9:41 AM

Henniger, M. (1999). Teaching young children. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merrill

Holdaway, D. (1979). The foundations of literacy. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Holdaway, D. (1986). The structure of natural learning as a basis for literacy instruction. In M. Sampson (Ed.), The pursuit of literacy: Early reading and writing (pp. 56-72). Dubuque, IA: Kendall/Hunt.

Williams, G. (1958). The rabbits wedding. NY, NY: McGraw Hill.

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Page last updated: Wednesday, March 15, 2006