My Never-Ending Marquette University Education

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By Nick McDaniels — Two weeks ago, I had the honor of hosting Marquette University College of Education’s Director of Teacher Education, Dr. Joan Whipp, in my classroom.

I have been participating in a research study Dr. Whipp has been conducting since I was a student teacher, being interviewed mostly about my knowledge, skills, and dispositions as they relate to teaching for social justice. During one of our interview sessions last Spring, Dr. Whipp and I talked about the possibility of her coming to my classroom, to observe my teaching, to see if I am really following through on the things I am talking about.

It happened. And what a great experience!

classroom.

Dr. Whipp was able to observe three days of my classroom instruction, interview many of my students, and debrief with me on a daily basis about my instruction. Using a new observation tool, she was able to provide me with timely, non-evaluative feedback on my teaching. When one of my lessons fell completely flat, as happens often, she made a few quick suggestions, which I implemented immediately in the next class. Of course, it worked right away.

That rarely happens in city schools any more! Urban teachers rarely get the chance to receive immediate, meaningful feedback from a skilled and knowledgeable observer for the purpose only of coaching. Teachers rarely get to discuss their plans, the risks involved, the reasons for taking those risks, and the failures that sometimes come with trying new things at new times. Teachers today, in an era of high-stakes evaluations, must shut their doors and hope no one comes by to give “feeback” (read as: “a write up”). What a great boost to my practice to have Dr. Whipp as constant support for a few days. This experience, in my fifth year, was far more meaningful than it ever could have been in my Marquette days, where I did not have the language, the awareness, or the reflective ability to completely understand what I was and wasn’t doing in my

The fun didn’t stop there, of course. Dr. Whipp and I had the opportunity to speak to a number of pre-service teachers, university faculty, and a few other visitors at the Loyala University Maryland Center for Innovation in Urban Education’s Fall Panel Discussion. Our discussion, with dynamic and inspiring Dr. Thurman Bridges of Morgan State University, was called “What You Should Learn About Urban Teaching in Your Teacher Prep Program, But Won’t!” We received great questions from an inspiring group of pre-service teachers, dedicated to urban education. After meeting these students I can tell you the future is bright for Baltimore’s teaching force if the school system will once again make hiring these certificated teachers a priority.

Thinking back on the week, the great conversations about teaching, and social justice, reflecting on my growth since leaving Marquette, I am grateful that my Marquette education has yet to end. I am lucky that I got to share my practice with someone who understands precisely the training I have had, and thus understands why I do my job the way I do. Having Dr. Whipp coaching me for a week was a great refocusing of the important roots of our work, sound practice and methods and sound motives and goals, void of testing, evaluations, and all the other things that take away from the job of teaching children.

This is the reminder every teacher needs, whether it come from a university professor, a friend, a co-worker, but we are too often working in isolation, surrounded by people, yet incredibly lonely. Last week, I wasn’t lonely in my job. I had the support I needed. So to all other members of the Marquette education community, my classroom is open, so next time you are in Baltimore…

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