Our first commitment is to students in New York City high-need public schools, who will be learning and growing under the guidance of those teachers who we prepare.
Our second commitment is to our Teaching Residents. From day one, we work to ensure that our graduates enter schools and classrooms as well-prepared beginning teachers, ready for the complex realities of teaching and learning in NYC public schools. Even after graduation, we continue to invest in Teaching Residents on-going professional development so they are able to effectively contribute, collaborate, and honor the on-going work in the profession they are joining.
In maintaining our commitments, TR@TC is guided by the larger Teachers College conceptual framework, which is anchored in three philosophical stances: inquiry, curriculum, and social justice. With these overarching stances in mind, we embrace a philosophy of inclusive education, seeking to prepare teachers for all students in New York City public schools.
The TR@TC framework represents the way that we define and approach the development of skills and mindsets that well-prepared beginning teachers need to meet the needs of students in their classrooms.
Teachers College’s three philosophical stances were developed by teacher education faculty and the college and were adopted across the institution. The core of this philosophy envisions teachers as:
Reflective Practitioners who ask questions of and think about their own practice;
Curriculum-makers who are equipped to develop curricula for diverse and heterogeneous classrooms in which all learners have access to core content;
Advocates who recognize and work against societal inequities as they manifest in schools.
TC's philosophical framework informs our design and approaches to learning in TR@TC. Decisions about how to develop learning opportunities are guided by our own considerations of how to apply each stance in creating space for Teaching Residents to practice skills and mindsets that well-prepared beginning teachers need.
Our inquiry stance is grounded in the practice of inviting students to engage in conscious exploration of how and why institutional structures and society are the way that they are. This process of raising consciousness includes the work of taking on a questioning mindset that challenges students to look underneath their own beliefs of and experiences with schools and society. It also includes honing skills of critical analysis and question posing so that, as teachers, they are able to learn from students through an iterative process that includes careful observation, data collection, reflection, and active responsiveness to their needs and capacities.
This stance draws from scholars such as Dewey (1933), Freire (1970), and Schön (1987), who foregrounded the importance of teachers engaging in practice through critical, reflective thought. Dewey (1933) put forth the idea that teachers must be critical thinkers -- individuals who actively and regularly reflect on their beliefs, knowledge, and actions throughout their teaching practice. Freire (1970) built on this idea, arguing that knowledge only emerges through inquiry, both when individuals look critically within themselves, and when individuals reflect in community with each other. Schön (1987) developed his notions of reflection-in-action and reflection-on-action based on his understandings of Dewey’s writings, which require practitioners to both think on their feet and to also analyze their reactions to various situations. Furthering these ideas, Cochran-Smith and Lytle (1993) suggest that teachers be researchers engaged in inquiry within their own classrooms and that this practice is (or should be) one of the key and routine aspects of what a classroom teacher does.
Our curriculum stance is first grounded in the assumption that there are different ways of knowing, and that within school settings, teachers need to consider whose knowledge is included and who makes the decisions for including that knowledge. This is the base on which teachers build an understanding of inclusivity -- the importance of drawing in all students by developing multiple access points that enable each of them to engage fully and meaningfully in curriculum in the classroom. In TR@TC, this process includes a focus on developing skills and knowledge around curriculum development through a backward design model that emphasizes thinking and careful planning, as well as universal design for learning that begins with the premise that all learners are inherently diverse and therefore curriculum needs to be responsive to diversity from the start.
This stance draws upon the work of Zumwalt (1982) and her conceptualization of the deliberative practitioner who is equipped to make decisions about instruction and curriculum according to the needs of students and therefore is not simply a consumer, but also a producer of curriculum. Effective teaching demands considerable judgment on the part of teachers (Darling-Hammond, Wise, & Klein, 1995; Good & Brophy, 1986; Uhlenbeck, Verloop, & Beijaard, 2002), which requires that they not only understand the “what” of curriculum, but also the “why” and the “how,” a process that begins with consideration of the students and families with whom they work (Moll, Amanti, & Gonzalez, 1992; Turnbull & Turnbull, 2000).
Our social justice stance begins with the recognition that a teacher’s role is to meet the needs of the whole child who comes to the classroom as a complex being. The ability to do this requires the development of knowledges of cultural responsiveness, inclusive practice, multiculturalism, and emancipatory teaching. Taking on stances that incorporate these discourses includes holding asset-based views of students, families, neighborhoods, and communities. In addition, the stance of social justice expects that teachers act as advocates for students who experience being marginalized in school or community spaces and actively question and address inequities within their school contexts.
This stance aligns with that of TC, whose stated goal is based on the belief that one of the key purposes of education is the evolution of democratic society through challenging and transforming social inequities. To achieve this purpose, the university argues that educators need to question taken-for-granted ideas about schooling and the social order and to view themselves as change agents (Villegas & Lucas, 2002). They also need to understand how texts and symbols embedded within schools as institutions work to protect privilege, thus undermining democracy (Shannon, 1993). Educators need to learn and practice transformative pedagogies (Freire, 1970, 1998) that increase access to learning for all students in ways that contribute to a more democratic and just society (Allen, 1999; Beane & Apple, 1995; Greene, 1988, 1995; Shor, 1992).