Teachers College will hold its third annual Reimagining Education summer institute on July 16-19th.
As in past years, the Institute’s main thrust is understanding race and education, says its director, Amy Stuart Wells, Professor of Sociology & Education. Created by TC faculty and students across six of the College’s 10 departments, Reimagining Education is first and foremost a professional development forum that provides the nation’s predominantly white teaching force with hands-on strategies (and continuing education credits) for making subject matter relevant for America’s students, the majority of whom are of color. The approaches range from using hip hop to teach science to training entire schools on how to create college-going cultures for all students.
“TC is becoming the go-to place, nationally and internationally, for this kind of work. No other school of education could pull this off, because no other school of education has the breadth and depth of knowledge to do this work. And while other institutions discuss these issues, only we give teachers the opportunity and the credits to use this for professional development.”
– Amy Stuart Wells
“TC is becoming the go-to place, nationally and internationally, for this kind of work,” says Wells, who currently serves as President of the American Educational Research Association. “No other school of education could pull this off, because no other school of education has the breadth and depth of knowledge to do this work. And while other institutions discuss these issues, only we give teachers the opportunity and the credits to use this for professional development.”
[ Read a story on last year’s Reimagining Education institute, and the broader Reimagining Education initiative at Teachers College ]
But this year’s Institute also breaks new ground in seeking to unite two strands of the broader movement to diversify and personalize education that thus far have been separated by geography and differing ethnic contexts. The keynote address (which is also TC’s annual Edmund W. Gordon Lecture) will be delivered by Angela Valenzuela, Professor of Educational Leadership & Policy at the University of Texas-Austin, who is a leader of the Latina/o-based Ethnic Studies movement that has arisen in the American Southwest. [Note: The Gordon Lecture, which is sponsored by TC’s Institute for Urban & Minority Education, is free and open to the public. It will take place on Monday, July 16th, from 2:15 – 3:45 p.m., in TC’s Joyce B. Cowin Auditorium.]
“Ethnic studies has presented itself as a content area, while culturally relevant pedagogy and culturally sustaining leadership, which is what we tend to talk about more in the Northeast, is presented as more of a strategy,” Wells says. “As a result, to some extent, they’ve been more successful in the Southwest than we have here in changing education at the policy level.”
Wells also believes that this year’s Institute takes on heightened relevance in the wake of highly publicized battles over Mayor Bill de Blasio’s proposal to change the policy for admitting students to the city’s eight “selective schools.”
“People are fighting over seats in these schools because of the way the system is set up, but we really need a different starting point for the discussion, because right now even the winners aren’t happy,” she says. “If we can change the way we think about teaching and learning to reflect a broader understanding of what constitutes ability, then the admissions criteria we use for kids now would no longer make sense to us. It would no longer be a zero-sum game.”