[media-credit name=” stock.xchng” align=”alignright” width=”202″][/media-credit]I’m now an ‘edupunk for hire’ ((The edupunk part right now, and always. The ‘for hire’ part as soon as I get my CDE Alternative Certification papers.)). As I completed my Bachelors of Arts in History this semester, I began very earnestly researching the best way to further my education. Did you catch that last phrase? Read it again. The best way to further my education.
What furthers my education….. is certainly not the boxed solution that graduate programs in the field of education offer. ((It’s amazing to me that we continue to ship graduate degrees in a ‘one-size-fits-all’ box given the level of differentiation that occurs in the public school system.)) I was almost sold on Western Governor’s University because they are so ‘outside-the-box’. As a matter of fact, I plunked down $65 to begin the application process. I appreciate their willingness to think outside the traditional education paradigm, and to try to offer something new and different- namely a competency-based approach. However, this week I learned that although the wrappings are more a la Anya Kamenetz ((Author of DIY University[openbook booknumber=”ISBN:1603582347″ templatenumber=”1″])), the underlying principles are still very traditional. My question to my enrollment counselor was this:
“If I begin the MAT with Licensure program, but find a full-time teaching position through the Alternative Licensure program in my state and gain a license, do I have to leave my job in the classroom in order to complete the student teaching portion of my Masters?”
Guess what they said? YES. Let’s review. Teaching full-time as a certified teacher, but must stop to student teach in order to graduate and become a certified teacher. What’s wrong with this picture? The most frustrating part of this is that WGU will not convert ANY of the credits from the MAT with Licensure program towards the strictly MAT program. None. Zip. Zilch. Nada.
Here’s where I decide to go all ‘edupunk‘. I’m done trying to make a graduate program work for me. ((It’s interesting to note that it doesn’t make much of a salary difference- a BA plus 15 classes is the same as a Masters on my District’s Salary Schedule.)) I’m tired of hearing teachers tell me they didn’t learn things they needed to know in college. I’m tired of being the customer, and being treated like a recipient at a local food bank. Seriously, if you wanted into Wal-mart, and they gave you a pre-loaded shopping bag that you had no choice in selecting, would you go back there? What happens if you already have a case of Tomato soup? Do you need the one they gave you? What happens if you know that fresh vegetables are better for you, and don’t want the canned ones they’re force feeding you? Doesn’t the same thing apply for our education? I want to pick my own goods, thank you very much. Note that this does not mean that I’m opting out of learning- quite the opposite. I’m opting IN to learning in a way that feeds my needs.
Since I’m half-way through my second year in the classroom, I’m feeling very aware of my own ‘incompetencies’. This is the opposite of WGU’s competency based approach. Rather than show mastery of concepts they think I need to know, I’d like to gain mastery in my areas of incompetency. Yes, that’s a very negative word to use, but it is the antonym of competency. I’m reminded of a discussion I recently participated in regarding the evaluation process, in which we discussed how easy things would be if the evaluee came to his boss with a prepared list of growth areas based on his self-assessed weaknesses. If self-assessment is so valuable for students, shouldn’t it be even more so for us as educators? If we don’t already know where we’re struggling, the battle for competency is much harder.
I know my weaknesses. ((As I define these more clearly, I’ll post on them and the things I am doing to overcome them.)) I know, roughly, the areas that will cause me to struggle in the classroom. Daily, my PLN helps me clarify those weaknesses. They stretch my understanding, challenge my assumptions, and generally keep me humble. Weekly, my local co-workers show me areas where I need to see with different eyes or hear with different ears… or take a walk in their shoes!
I know my strengths, too. This means I don’t need to spend time on courses that teach how to use the Internet for research or how to teach children to use computers. That’s my first love, and passion in education. It is worth acknowledging these, and being aware that they can be the flip side of a weak area.
Next semester, I’ll turn in all my Alternative Licensure Candidate application papers. I’ll be starting a few carefully selected courses through Adams State University to make myself a better teacher. I think what excites me most is that I’ll use many of the assignments in those courses as blog posts because they are about reflective learning. One course even centers around a book by Daniel Pink that’s already on my “To Read” list.
I am taking responsibility for my own learning, and I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that personalizing my own higher education will make me a more effective and excellent teacher. The challenge? Selling that concept to potential employers and co-workers in the traditional education realm. Edupunk for hire, anyone? ((If you’re in the Northern Colorado area and think a passionate educator with a fresh perspective is just what you need in your building next fall, I’d welcome the opportunity to talk with you.))