Teach-Now in Korea

This article originally appeared in the November issue of BiBimBap magazine, an online journal for EFL teachers in Jeollanamdo, South Korea. You can view the ISSUU version here.

The Teacher Certification Debate

In America, there are two debates going on about teacher preparation programs; one is happening in the media, among education policy experts and at the highest levels of education administration. The other is happening around kitchen tables in the homes of career-changers, and in coffee shops with college graduates and undergrads, who are interested in becoming a teacher. Both debates are concerned with the structure, quality and quantity of preparation needed to sustain an effective teaching career in U.S. schools in the 21st Century. However, the latter debate also includes concerns about the costs associated with taking a year or two off from making money and instead taking on the prohibitive costs (read: student loan debt) of getting a teacher certification from a traditional school of education.

Case in point: my own path as a teacher has been varied and circuitous because I was most interested in gaining actual experience in the classroom over acquiring more formal theoretical knowledge in grad school. And I found many opportunities in my own community and around the world to get into the classroom, develop a style and a toolkit of my own and grow immediately as a professional. Adding to my uneasiness about grad school was the fact that I was debt free when I finished my undergraduate studies and vehemently wanted to stay that way.

Furthermore, I knew many alums of the many prestigious teacher prep programs at the local universities while working as paraprofessional in a Seattle public school. Many of those teachers told me that the experience I was gaining in the classroom as a teacher’s aide was preparing me as much as or more than a formal Master’s In Teaching program would by itself. I felt frustrated by the limbo between having the relevant experience and lacking a flexible, affordable and high-quality path to teacher certification. It turns out I had to come to Korea to discover the answer to my teacher prep woes!

We should not forget Martin Haberman’s research showing that long-serving “star” teachers are often from low-income backgrounds, have graduated from non-elite colleges, or are people of faith. Others, like Alex Caputo-Pearl, have somewhat radical politics. What makes these nontraditional teachers special is that they are mission-driven to help struggling students succeed, and they are enthusiastic about holding all children to high intellectual standards. Those are the attributes teacher preparation programs should seek.
-Dana Goldstein, The Teacher Wars: A History of America’s Most Embattled Profession

Teach-Now, Literally

Emily Feistritzer worked for the U.S. Department of Education studying alternative-route teacher certification programs across the country. After 30 years as a preeminent expert on the subject, she decided to create a program which addressed the holes and inadequacies that she saw in many alternative-route teacher prep programs. Thus, Teach-Now was born; a rigorous, practical and affordable teacher certification program aimed at “preparing tomorrow’s teachers for tomorrow’s learners in tomorrow’s world”.

Apart from the student-teaching portion of the program, the Teach-Now classes and coursework are completed fully online. Assignments, readings, teaching videos, discussions, and professor interaction are all facilitated via the Teach-Now online learning platform which is similar to those of EdX and Coursera. Small cohorts of 15 or fewer teacher candidates and their module instructor meet weekly online, in real time, using the AdobeConnect video conferencing program. Lectures, discussions, flash collaboration mini-projects and analysis of exemplary teaching videos happen in the VC’s (virtual class) by the cohort members and their instructor who could be many thousands of miles apart. In fact, my cohort consisted of three English teachers in three different Korean provinces, five international school teachers in three different provinces of China, an American school teacher’s aide in Germany, and a paraprofessional working in an Arizona charter school.

Teach-Now relies on open source readings and resources from the web, as opposed to expensive textbooks. The resources range from podcasts about Lev Vygotsky and the importance of play in learning, Rick Wormeli YouTube videos on differentiation, and, of course, the writings of John Dewey on progressive teaching methods.  

Where the Teach-Now program really excels and differentiates itself, thanks to Ms. Feistritzer’s vision, is in the hands-on experience teacher candidates get with valuable education technology tools. Assignments ask teacher candidates to analyze and dissect the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) in an electronic mind map, create an academic data infographic, collaborate on a debate about blended learning via Voicethread, participate in an ed policy Twitter chat or develop a Pinterest board rich with lesson plan ideas. All individual and group writing assignments are completed, shared and submitted in Google Docs.

The final module or unit of the Teach-Now program is in the mold of a traditional student-teaching practicum in which teacher candidates need to complete 250 hours of in-class instruction in their subject area or grade level of certification. Similarly to traditional student-teaching models, teacher candidates need an experienced mentor teacher to support, observe and evaluate the candidate’s performance. What is different with Teach-Now, is that you also record a class once a week, upload the video to your Google Drive, share it with your instructor and cohort-mates, receive notes on your performance and discuss it at the weekly VC. This professional development method is precisely what the Gates Foundation’s Measures of Effective Teaching Project calls for in order to better identify and develop the best teachers and teaching strategies.

 

My Experience with Teach-Now in Korea

I had a wonderful experience completing the Teach-Now program from here in Yeosu. The opportunity to achieve my goal of becoming a certificated elementary teacher while living and working abroad, and not going into serious debt, has been a huge gift for which I am grateful. However, there were a few key factors which made the experience possible, as well as a truly rigorous and meaningful preparation that was flexible enough to work with my unique teaching situation. Keep these in mind if you are reading this and are interested in the program.  

First, I had some great cohort-mates who were located in similar time zones in East Asia. They were serious professionals with years of teaching experience before joining the Teach-Now program. I learned a lot from them and received a lot of valuable feedback on my teaching as well.

Second, my Korean co-teacher at my elementary school in Yeosu is a wonderful, progressive teacher with nearly two decades of experience in the classroom as a homeroom teacher, head teacher, English teacher and low-level administrator. Despite her years of experience in Korea, she was eager to learn from my American-style teacher preparation and therefore allowed me to experiment with some distinctly Western-style teaching methods in our English classroom.

Last, I teach a few extra classes on my own, without a co-teacher and without a curriculum. This also allowed me huge amounts of freedom during the practicum especially, but also during the academic modules. I used those free form classes to complete an assignment or put into action an emphasized teaching method.

If you do not have these elements; solid cohort-mates in your time zone, a great Korean co-teacher and some flexibility in your teaching schedule, then you may need to think twice before applying to Teach-Now. Otherwise, go for it!

  

Teach-Now in the News:

Teach-Now as a great alternative-route certification option for military spouses abroad.

Teach-Now program revolutionizes teacher preparation.

Education researcher moves into the certification business.

On Twitter you can follow Teach-Now @teachnowprogram or via #tncohort.

Student Survey Infographic

Nearly six months ago I conducted one of my first student interest surveys as a teacher. It was a modest attempt to learn about the learning habits and preferences of some of my 5th and 6th grade English students. To fulfill the requirements of the Teach-Now assignment I had to create and execute the survey using the Survey Monkey site. Since then I have learned to create Google Forms, added the Google Forms template gallery to my GAFE repertoire and played around with the results of such forms in Google Sheets.

Lo and behold, what arrives in my inbox just today? An update from the incredible infographics web creator, Piktocharts, announcing that you can now import Survey Monkey results and instantly make eye-catching charts! And what do I find when I start playing around with the beta version of Survey Monkey imports in Piktocharts, that I am able to link Google Sheets (and thus, the results of a Google Form) into a beautiful Piktochart infographic as well! You can watch a quick tutorial of how to import your Survey Monkey results into Piktochart here.

Needless to say, it was a good and productive day. Below you will find the results of my student interest survey in the form of an easily created Piktochart infographic. So easy and so cool and just the first of many to come!

Heads up: click on the infographic for best viewing on the web.

TN Student Interest Survey

Innovative Teaching and Learning Pilot Year Report – Microsoft Partners in Learning

Microsoft Partners in Learning is supporting a long-term global Innovative Teaching and Learning research project focused on information and communication technology (ICT) use in the classroom, student-centered 21st Century Skills development and extended learning opportunities outside the classroom in a global context. The pilot year of this research project was in 2009 and it included classrooms in Finland, Russia, Senegal and Indonesia. In Module Two of the Teach-Now certification program, we were asked to explore the world of ‘Tomorrow’s Teacher’. One task in this exploration was a reading of the Innovative Teaching and Learning pilot year report and the creation of an infographic to visually represent the key findings of the report. Below is my submission:

Innovative Teaching and Learning Infographic

The Context of Teaching – Student Demographics

Student Data Analysis - KWS (1)

In Module Two of the Teach-Now certification program we are asked to collect, analyze and create an infographic representing essential student data in our own school, district or national teaching context. While I am currently teaching in South Korea, I do plan to return to the classroom in the United States, and more than likely in my home city of Seattle.

The infographic will show the English Language Learner numbers as a percentage for Seattle Public Schools as over against those of the nation and Washington State. You will see the same national versus district and state comparison with the numbers on Special Education and percentage of white students. In the last two Piktochart blocks there are graphic bar graphs comparing the 4th grade ELL reading growth and the 4th grade urban student math growth for Seattle Public Schools and the nation as a whole.

Here is where I found the district, state and national data:

1. Seattle Public Schools district reports and scorecards

2. Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction Report Card

3. National Center for Education Statistics