My experience in schools and educational publishing includes the following:
- Adjunct professor of history (Mercer County Community College, 2012-present)
- Teacher, English as a foreign language (Colegiul Tehnic Alexandru Roman, Alesd-Bihor, Romania, 2009-2011)
- Instructor, college skills program (City Colleges of Chicago, 2008-2009)
- Adjunct professor (National-Louis University, Graham School at the University of Chicago, 2006-2008)
- Substitute teacher, mainly in middle schools (Chicago, Evanston, and Wilmette, IL, mid 2000s)
- Designer of computer-based instruction (University of Illinois at Chicago, 1980s)
- Editor of language texts and professional books for teachers (Teachers College Press, late 1970s)
- Editor of supplemental reading materials for middle-school students (John Wiley & Sons, early 1970s)
LEARNING TO DO, DOING TO LEARN
Given the household in which I grew up,it’s a wonder that I didn’t begin seriously learning to teach until well into my sixth decade. My father, though never with any official certification, was a teacher in all he did. As a young man, arriving in suburban Chicago from South Dakota knowing nearly no one, he soon started a play club for boys and girls to pay his way through Northwestern. Its motto was “learning to do, and doing to learn.” And that’s the way he raised his four children; John Dewey would have approved (although my father was, fortunately, a bit more of a disciplinarian than many other educators who actually called themselves progressives). I tried the same with my own daughters, influenced as well by Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s injunction: respond to children’s needs, without creating in them needs they would not otherwise have.
As a college freshman, I spent about three hours as an elementary education major – reacting to the banality of the courses I would have to take, I bolted to liberal arts. It’s a decision I came to regret, as being without official certification hampered a few other things I would have liked to do – but that visceral reaction, plus experience working with several colleges of education, has only become stronger in the decades since.
In 1900, my heroine (and subject of my dissertation) Ella Flagg Young claimed that “young women of parts” (meaning grace and accomplishments) were too often dissuaded from teaching not only by the banality of the required preparation but by the drudgery of too much supervision in the classroom. She was right — both tendencies have hampered public education in the century since.
I finally learned to teach by teaching – surely the only way to do it – first as an adjunct and a substitute, and later as a Peace Corps volunteer (see Teaching Abroad). And I am still learning.