Introduction-Hope, Well-Being, and Diversity in Teaching: Toward Fulfilling Visions

Article excerpt

This Spring 2012 issue of Teacher Education Quarterly covers a range of topics around visions teacher educators and research hold about why becoming a teacher is personally fulfilling, intellectually challenging, and politically demanding. Teachers and teacher education are under siege nationwide; parents are concerned with increased testing, and the diversification of schools; teachers are under constant pressure to raise test scores, and at the same time to meet the needs of every child regardless of language, ethnicity, social class, and special needs. Yet, despite negative press about the profession, despite the new and at times contradictory demands on teachers, thousands of young people in every state feel a special calling to teaching. For many, the call to teaching is about hope and well-being of students and a commitment to teaching (Bullough & Hall-Kenyon, this volume); for others, the call to teaching is about giving back to the community from which they came (Irizarry & Donaldson, 2012), to connect to children and youth; still others enter teaching to transform society around issues of social justice, to interrupt racism, to question tracking and segregation, and to engage in culturally and linguistically relevant teaching (Lucas, 2011).

Students who enter teacher education programs in the current climate can expect to be prepared to teach a wide variety of students and to address multiple student learning and social needs. Beyond learning to teach the academic contents, such as literacy, math, science, social studies, art, and music, teachers also need to learn about culturally and linguistically relevant teaching and advocacy, as well as teaching and advocating for students of disabilities. The articles in this volume speak to these complexities, offering a range of findings and conclusions, and stances and commitments, about learning to teach in an array of school settings.

The volume begins with a study to examine the meaning of "being called to teach" in relationship to a sense of hopefulness and commitment to teaching for a certain group of teachers. Robert V Bullough, Jr. and Kendra M. Hall-Kenyon administered surveys to mainly White elementary in-service teachers across two states, Nevada and Utah. The authors wanted to understand why these teachers went into teaching and what motivated them to stay in teaching. They found evidence of a commitment to serving that went beyond what many would consider as teaching--nurturing and caring to children and youth. There was little evidence of being called to teach a particular subject matter content, but as the authors point out, this may be due to the sample characteristics. Most of the teachers in the study reported that managing the growing workload in teaching and assessment requirements was a continuous struggle.

In a discussion of the sociopolitical and economic realities teachers face in schools, Thomas M. Philip presents three main critiques for readers to consider. He questions the dominant script that things will improve if only teachers tried harder and strived to become more passionate and committed to teaching. For Philip, this script allows for society to maintain a deficit view of minority children and youth, and it promotes a narrative that learning is entirely dependent on teachers, leaving issues of equitable funding of schools and equitable access to and distribution of resources out of the discussion. This article should provoke discussion about the connections and disconnections between the dominant and social justice stances.

Engaging teacher candidates in sociopolitical dialogue is taken up in Christina Chavez-Reyes' article, which describes in some detail how students in California deal with issues of White privilege, race, and immigration. Chavez-Reyes found that while students were initially unconformable with "cultural difference discourse," they soon were able to express new insights that went beyond their first impressions about cultural difference and other topics related to the sociopolitical issues covered in the class. …