Language Arts Methods Class at Aki Kurose Middle School: Redefining Clinical Teacher Education
By Karen Mikolasy, instructor, Lorena Guillen, teaching assistant, and Paul Sutton, teaching assistant.
Aki Kurose Middle School is a highly diverse middle school in the central district of Seattle. Of all of Seattle’s middle schools, Aki Kurose has the highest percentage of non-white students at 97% and the highest percentage of students who qualify for free and reduced lunch.
Spurred by a need evidenced by teacher candidates’ struggles in the field, instructor Karen Mikolasy moved the Secondary Language Arts Methods class to Aki Kurose Middle School. The move to Aki Kurose was both pragmatic and symbolic. Pragmatically, we believe that pre-service teachers will learn best how to relate to all students when they spend the most time interacting with them.
Ken Zeichner, UW Director of Secondary Teacher Education, writes in Teacher Education and the Struggle for Social Justice, “In the U.S., teachers are often socialized to either defer to or ignore the expertise of university professors, and professors are often socialized to believe that their only role is to disseminate knowledge to teachers. In my view…the expertise of both teachers and professors [should be] acknowledged, and both parties should see themselves as learners and teachers of each other.”
Moving the methods class to Aki Kurose gives our teacher candidates the opportunity to engage the students in genuine and sustained relationship building and academic support. Symbolically, we believe that teacher education is not an isolated endeavor. It is a shared responsibility, between university and school. Our move to Aki Kurose validates the expertise present in both settings.
Our instruction revolves around four essential questions. 1) What is engagement? 2) What is learning? 3) How do we know students have learned? 4) How do we want our students to be different at the end of the course?
To that end and in collaboration with the elementary math methods professor, Elham Kazemi, we established the following principles that drive our practice. The following points were inspired by Kazemi’s syllabus:
- We believe that teaching is intellectual work and requires specialized knowledge.
- We believe teaching is something that can be learned.
- We believe learning to do something requires repeated opportunities to practice.
- We believe there is value in making teaching public.
- We believe we all bring our histories forward.
- Our developing identities as language arts teachers matter to our work with children.