This is Michigan

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Teaching the teachers: Tackling inequity in the classroom, preparing teachers to teach to all

THE FUTURE OF
MORE THAN 49 MILLION
K-12 U.S. STUDENTS
DEPENDS ON SKILLFUL TEACHING

YET MANY TEACHERS
LACK ACCESS
TO PROPER TRAINING AND SUPPORT

Thomas Allen Standifer II, Principal, Mulick Park Elementary, Grand Rapids, MI
I used to think that giving students more problems was rigorous teaching.

TEACHINGWORKS
AT THE U-M SCHOOL OF EDUCATION
PROVIDES THE COACHING AND FEEDBACK
TEACHERS NEED

TO HELP STUDENTS
BETTER CONNECT WITH
SUBJECT MATTER

AND CREATE A
POSITIVE LEARNING EXPERIENCE
FOR ALL CHILDREN

Tiffany Ancel – Teacher, Mulick Park Elementary, Grand Rapids, MI
I feel like as teachers a lot we don’t ever watch ourselves in practice.
We talk about practices and strategies and what we should do but we never really have time to reflect and see what we really do.

Deborah Ball
Year after year teachers who are enthusiastic and well-intentioned but actually pretty underprepared are much more likely to be found in communities of color and low-income communities.

Deborah Ball, Professor, U-M School of Education
So children who actually deserve to have teaching that has great positive power are repeatedly having teachers who are not actually ready to help children grow and to flourish.

USING RESEARCH, INSIGHTS
AND TRAINING
DEVELOPED AT U-M

TEACHINGWORKS PARTNERS
WITH SCHOOL DISTRICTS
TO HELP TEACHERS
MAKE A DIFFERENCE

D Ball
It’s about making teacher education much more about the practice of teaching directly, much more about learning the subject matter content in a way that enables you to actually help a child learn.

THE TEACHINGWORKS GRAND RAPIDS
MATHEMATICS COLLABORATIVE
IS RETHINKING
HOW MATH IS TAUGHT FOR GRADES 3-8

Alex Kuiper, Teacher, Godfrey Elementary, Wyoming, MI
With TeachingWorks, we’re able to really look at what is the conceptual thinking behind math and how can we as teachers instruct our students so that they really understand and develop a sense of math, as well as a love of math.

TEACHERS ARE LEARNING
HOW TO LEAD DISCUSSIONS

THAT ENCOURAGE
CHILDREN TO VOICE THEIR IDEAS
AND EXPLAIN THEIR THINKING

AND CREATE A CLASSROOM
THAT BUILDS CONFIDENCE

[Alex Kuiper]
We meet about once a month to talk about our mathematical practices and how we are teaching how to lead a discussion with students, how to make each student feel competent in the math classroom.

TEACHINGWORKS HAS DEVELOPED
20 PARTNERSHIPS
WITH SCHOOLS THROUGHOUT MICHIGAN

[Standifer]
My ultimate goal is that we’re all on the same page, so that as our kids transfer from grade to grade as they move it’s a continuous process.

MORE THAN 230
TEACHER EDUCATORS
HAVE RECEIVED
TEACHINGWORKS TRAINING

AND ARE NOW COACHING
OTHER TEACHERS
HOW TO FOSTER SUCCESS
IN THE CLASSROOM

[Kuiper]
Not only were we working on math, we got to work on disrupting social injustices within the classroom, learning how to be culturally competent and reach all my students.

[Ball]
It’s about the population of Michigan. It’s about the young people of Michigan. That is why we’re here as a university.

[Kuiper]
I hope that they’re able to say, “You know what? I can do whatever I want when I leave this classroom.”

By Kim North Shine
 Learning is "a continuous process," says Thomas Allen Standifer II, principal of Mulick Park Elementary in Grand Rapids, Michigan, talking about the University of Michigan's TeachingWorks program.

Principal Standifer

Before Mulick Park Elementary School principal Thomas Standifer II joined the University of Michigan’s TeachingWorks collaboration with Kent County educators, he had a very different approach to teaching.

“I used to think giving students more problems was rigorous teaching,” he said.

But after Standifer and his colleagues at the school in Grand Rapids began monthly meetings and implemented other efforts suggested by TeachingWorks, his approach changed. And so did the teachers and the students.

TeachingWorks was founded seven years ago at U-M to improve the quality of beginning teaching in the U.S. and to build resources for addressing educational inequities. Based on extensive research and development at the School of Education, TeachingWorks supports the development of skillful teaching through direct work on teaching practice with pre-service and in-service teachers. Its focus is the intertwining of high-quality academic instruction and deliberate attention to combating injustice in classrooms.

The University of Michigan's TeachingWorks program is about "the practice of teaching directly...in a way that enables you to actually help a child learn," says U-M professor Deborah Ball.

Learning to help kids learn

Standifer said the TeachingWorks partnership made it clear that teaching is more about empowering teachers to empower students. It’s about fostering classroom interaction and about instilling confidence in students. And it’s about understanding social justice and inequity issues that may be hindering learning and teaching.

“My ultimate goal is that we’re all on the same page so that as our kids transfer from grade to grade…it’s a continuous process,” he said.

Like Standifer, teachers across the state with college degrees in hand and varying levels of experience head into classrooms and do what they were prepared to do: teach.

What many teachers discover, however, is that they could use more support, guidance and reinforcement, especially in learning to teach in ways that disrupts cycles of injustice for children of color and children from lower-income communities.

Tiffany Ancel, a teacher at Mulick Park Elementary in Grand Rapids, Michigan, participates in the University of Michigan's TeachingWorks program.

Tiffany Ancel

“I feel like, as teachers, we don’t ever watch ourselves in practice,” said Tiffany Ancel, a teacher at Mulick Park Elementary in Grand Rapids. “We talk about practices and strategies and what we should do, but we never have time to reflect and see what we really do.”

Ancel, who participates in TeachingWorks, says the program helps teachers better understand their students’ backgrounds and needs, and how best to encourage student interest and engagement.

Part of TeachingWorks training has teachers recording themselves during classroom instruction so that they can identify strengths and weaknesses and build or adjust.

TeachingWorks founding director Deborah Ball, the William H. Payne Professor of Collegiate Education at U-M, said the program fosters deeper interaction between pupils and teachers.

"It's about the young people of Michigan," says University of Michigan professor Deborah Ball. "That is why we're here as a university."

Deborah Ball

“It’s about making teacher education much more about the practice of teaching directly, much more about learning the subject matter content in a way that enables you to actually help a child learn,” she said.

“It’s about the population of Michigan. It’s about the young people of Michigan. That is why we’re here as a university.”

To that end, TeachingWorks has partnered with more than 20 schools in Michigan. It has provided hundreds of teachers with educational and enrichment opportunities, and has trained some 230 teachers and teacher educators from around the country.

TeachingWorks brings expertise in the practice of teaching to teacher educators and teacher preparation programs, as well as to teachers and school leaders in school districts. It provides workshops, coaching, curriculum resources, videos of teaching practice, and specific approaches to professional development.

“I hope they’re able to say, ‘You know, I can do whatever I want when I leave this classroom.’ ”
– Alex Kuiper, teacher, Godfrey Elementary, Wyoming, MI.

TeachingWorks programs are based around general educational topics; other times it targets specific themes. But always, TeachingWorks seeks to prevent teachers from struggling in classrooms and to prepare them for the mix of needs their students bring to the table.

The TeachingWorks Grand Rapids Mathematics Collaborative in Kent County has teachers rethinking how third- through eighth-graders learn math.

"Not only were we working on math, we were also learning how to disrupt social injustices," says Alex Kuiper, a teacher at Godfrey Elementary in Wyoming, Michigan

Kuiper and his math students

“With TeachingWorks, we’re able to really look at what is the conceptual thinking behind math, and how can we as teachers instruct our students so that they really understand and develop a sense of math as well as a love of math,” said Alex Kuiper, a teacher at Godfrey Elementary in Wyoming.

Doing that means leading discussions that encourage students to voice their ideas and explain their thinking, and in the process, build a classroom of confident children. Teachers at Godfrey and other schools in Kent County get together regularly to support one another in the endeavor to blend a love of math with a love of learning with a love of self.

“Not only were we working on math, but we were learning how to disrupt social injustices in the classroom,” Kuiper said.

The collaboration has given him greater hope that his students will see bright futures ahead.

“I hope they’re able to say, ‘You know, I can do whatever I want when I leave this classroom,’ ” he said.

TeachingWorks

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