Get Involved

Michael Bowman took a break from working on his dissertation to write our introductory blog. Many of the McERA network of Community Mentors and UW teacher candidates and first, second and third year teachers know Michael for his respect for community and its knowledge and as co-creator and teacher of the “Community, Family and Politics” strand at the University of Washington Elementary Teacher Ed Program.

Community Teacher Blog People Centered Educational Change

The contents of this blog center on the collaborative work of K-12 teachers, teacher educators, families, community leaders, and students who strive to create more equitable, humane, and culturally responsive classroom and school environments. We identify this collaborative work as foundational to the development of accomplished community teachers: urban educators whose practice demonstrates knowledge and appreciation for their students’ cultural lives and their community contexts through the construction of environments for active and expansive learning (Murrell Jr., 2001). We strongly believe that the development of community teachers is the only path for substantive, justice-oriented educational change [reform, transformation, renewal???].

Unfortunately, the current educational policy climate– which reaches into public pre-K-12 schools, public Universities, and educational non-profits alike with its push to standardize, routinize, measure, and punish– devalues teacher and community knowledge and distrusts educators’ abilities to improvise and create responsive curriculum and relationships. Therefore, those aspiring to be accomplished community teachers must learn to “teach against the grain”: to strategically navigate standard educational practices and systems in order to both challenge those that are not in the best interest of students and create viable alternatives (Cochran-Smith, 1991).

The impetus for this blog emerged from such a strategic navigation. It is one of the results of a collaboration between several faculty and graduate students at the University of Washington’s Teacher Education Programs (UWTEP) and the co-founders of the Multicultural Educational Rights Alliance (McERA), a Seattle-based community organizing group working to achieve effective, inspired, racially and socially just public education. In our collective work with UW teacher candidates and community members involved in educational issues, we repeatedly heard the desire to see what ‘community teaching’ and ‘teaching against the grain’ looked liked in practice. After looking around the popular and scholarly literature, we found that the field of education could itself benefit from more ‘case studies’ of this kind of work.

Therefore, the posts included herein should be read as earnest attempts to make visible this difficult work. We envision posts including portraits of particular classrooms, schools, and neighborhood organizations which value community teaching; portraits of teacher, student, family, and community collaborations; discussions of the language, practices, and effects of local and national educational policy; and links to events, activities, and organizations in Seattle and around the country that support the goal of developing community teachers.

While many of the blog posts will come from those will affiliations to UWTEP and McERA, we anticipate using this blog as a way to grow our ‘community teaching’ network by inviting guest postings from educators, organizers, and activists locally and from around the country.

From the outset, we understand this blog as an invitation to readers for comment, question, and debate. We need to encourage this kind of discourse in order for us to realize that another education– and another educational reform– is possible.

Marilyn Cochran-Smith (1991). “Learning to Teach Against the Grain,” Harvard Educational Review, 61(3), pgs. 279-310.
Peter Murrell Jr., (2001). The Community Teacher: A New Framework for Effective Urban Teaching. New York: Teachers College Press.