This story was written in partnership with the Office of Digital Learning at Teachers College, Columbia University
To begin, we established a few think-tank working meetings to try to articulate what we do to design in-person learning, what could translate directly, and what would need to be transformed. At first, we were overwhelmed. How would we hold small group discussions, or group work in an online, asynchronous course? First we had to accept that some things wouldn’t translate directly from in-person, to online. Which meant we needed to find an alternative approach to reach our desired outcome. This is when everything shifted.
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I am from a caring mom
That cooks with pride
Baked ziti with chicken
And from T.V.,
I am from the hood
With gunshots that ring
More than doorbells,
my mother grew,
As red as blood.
That untitled work, by a student at East River Academy, a New York City public school that serves young people at the city’s Rikers Island detention facility, is among the 69 poems, narratives and essays found on the pages of “Free Minds,” a booklet published by Teachers College’s Student Press Initiative (SPI). Launched 16 years ago by Ruth Vinz, Enid & Lester Morse Professor in Teacher Education, SPI is just one facet of TC’s Center for the Professional Education of Teachers (CPET), which was created by Vinz as an outlet for students at the Academy and other schools to express their thoughts, their hopes and their dreams.
In May, District 79 – an alternative city school district that helps students under the age of 21 who have experienced an interruption to their studies – recognized CPET as an “Exemplary Partner” for its work with East River Academy, which includes professional and curriculum development. The honors were directed at the entire CPET team, which consists of the center’s director, Roberta Lenger Kang; SPI director Cristina Romeo Compton; Senior Professional Development Coach Courtney Brown; and a team focused on East River Academy Team whose members are TC students Shannon Alison and Andrew Ravin (both of whom are Zankel Fellows); TC Social Studies Education faculty member Erika Kitzmiller; and Senior Professional Development Coaches Greg Benoit (math) and Kristina Hopkins (science).
Continue reading on the Teachers College website.
NYC Mayor's Office of Media & Entertainment Announces "Americanah" as Winner of Inaugural One Book, One New York Program
Excerpt: "Throughout February, New Yorkers voted for the book they want the whole City to read together as part of “One Book, One New York,” and today, Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment (MOME) Commissioner Julie Menin and BuzzFeed announced New Yorkers have chosen Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah as the winning book. Nearly 50,000 votes were cast online and at kiosks throughout the New York City subway system, generating a citywide conversation online about which book should win this first-of-its-kind competition. During the next several months, MOME will present a series of free, open-to-the-public events throughout the five boroughs for New Yorkers to gather in discussion of Americanah, and engage with its poignant and timely themes of immigration, feminism, and race.
In addition, the Center for the Professional Education of Teachers (CPET) at Teachers College, Columbia University will adapt its Literacy Unbound program to serve the needs of One Book, One New York, dispatching teaching artists to work collaboratively with participants in workshops in all five boroughs. These workshops will encourage artistic forms of self-expression around the themes presented by Americanah. CPET will also release a readers’ guide for group discussion of the book; a curriculum guide that aligns to standards for NYC public high schools; and instructional podcasts for book club facilitators."
Read the full press release via the Mayor's Office of Media & Entertainment
Date: February 14, 2017
Summary: Incarcerated high school students at East River Academy, which is part of the network of schools on Rikers Island, are learning the Shakespeare classic "Romeo and Juliet" this month, like many other New York City ninth graders. While it's part of the city's public school curriculum, many of the 16-and-17-year-old students at the jail read well below grade level so their teachers said recently they had to get creative.
Excerpt: "With the help of professional development training, offered by [CPET coaches Courtney Brown, Laura Rigolosi, and Uzma Hossain], teachers learned to take a step back from Shakespeare and focus on one big idea: love. The point was to connect students to the big themes in the play, and begin with simpler text. 'Once upon a time I would have just taught Romeo and Juliet,' said Essie Brew-Hammond. 'Now we’ve had two weeks on ‘what is love?’…And they give you their definitions and you're writing it on the board and you’re challenging them.'"
Read the full article at WNYC
Publication: Singapore American School
Date: December 6, 2016
Summary: New this year, the advanced topics program seeks to provide relevant, real-world problem-solving experiences for students. Writing Seminar, the English department’s first AT course, offers a way for students who already have an interest in creative writing to delve deeper into the world of letters, through building a community of writers and spending the spring semester on a collaborative project: a published book. In an exciting new partnership with the Center for Professional Education of Teachers (CPET) at Teachers College, Columbia University, consultants Cristina Romeo Compton and Lora Hawkins were at SAS, working directly with AT Writing Seminar students for a week-long launch of the publication project.
Excerpt: "When asked what she took away from her first week with SAS students, she is effusive. 'I learned from the students,' she says. 'They’re open and honest and candid. They collaborate with one another with respect and collegiality. It’s really remarkable.' Hawkins is impressed with the structure of the AT Writing Seminar course. 'The first semester was based on community building and practicing skills.' What’s innovative about that? 'In certain contexts that behavior gets dismissed as ‘fluffy.’ People ask, ‘why spend so much time building intimacy amongst your colleagues?’ I think the way the students interact with each other justifies taking time to establish those practices and those relationships.'
Read the full article at Singapore American School
Publication: Teachers College
Date: July 18, 2014
Summary: A multi-media remix of Mary Shelley's classic novel, "Frankenstein," was presented July 17. The production, which included an original script and original choreography, plus original sound mixes, video, photography and line drawings, was staged by Performance at the Center, a project of TC's Center for the Professional Education of Teachers (CPET).
“Gordon and Bruni hope to reprise Performance at the Center in the summer 2015, and, meanwhile, build an online community of teachers all over the world who want to experiment with this radical new way of teaching literature.”
Read the full article on TC News
Publication: Chalkbeat NY
Date: July 18, 2014
Summary: At age 18, Mary Shelley was challenged to write a horror story, and the novel “Frankenstein” was the final product. Over the past two weeks, 13 teachers—four from New York City—and 13 local high school students tackled a challenge of their own: rethinking Shelley’s work to create an original multi-media performance.
“This is not something they can lift verbatim and plop into their classroom,” Blom cautioned. “They’re going to take what works for them, adapt it, make it fit their unique classrooms.”
Read the full article on ChalkbeatNY
Publication: NY Daily News
Date: July 17, 2014
Summary: They’re called “students” and “teachers” for 10 months out of the year, but all 26 of the people who performed a rowdy rendition of “Frankenstein” on Thursday at Columbia Teachers College were simply “players.”Their modern multimedia mashup was the final product of nine days of a radical education experiment, designed to spur kids’ creativity by giving them more latitude to interpret and create.
“I would tell the teacher to turn off the screen, erase the board and let the students speak,” said Melissa Kingue, a 15-year-old drama student at LaGuardia High School on the Upper West Side. “Getting on your feet and doing something: that’s exploring.”
Read the full article on NY Daily News!
Publication: Huffington Post
Date: July 12, 2014
Summary: To explore and remix Shelley's Frankenstein in a multi-media context is currently the creative challenge for 13 teachers from around the world and 13 New York City high school students at Teachers College, Columbia University. The Common Core Curriculum Standards have curtailed the study of fiction in favor of STEM disciplines. The multi-media remix of Frankenstein places the spotlight on fiction and the humanities as critical components of a 21st century education and asks: How else can we creatively engage with literature in the learning environment? The project will culminate with a presentation at The Center for the Professional Education of Teachers on July 17.
"It's not a "mine" type of place, it's an "our" type of place. The normal "student-teacher" relationship is broken. It's teaching me about how you can take very minor characters and develop them further. It's teaching me about looking at things from multiple perspectives. It's teaching me that the school system is very flawed. In this kind of a space, we are all educating each other. We all respect each other. We feel much freer to share with each other."
Read the full article on Huffington Post Now!
Publication: Teachers College Research/Publications
Date: December 17, 2013
Summary: A Teachers College initiative is sharing approaches and strategic practices from the world’s top school systems
Excerpt:"It is so urgent to look at schools around the world and use our observations to inform our own work – not by replicating what other nations do, but by repurposing their ideas and practices to fit our own culture,” Sawch says. “SEI is bringing together the world’s most successful school districts to work together in what we think of as ‘coopetition,’ – everyone trying to get even better -- and our research has informed that work."
Read the full article at Teachers College.
CPET's Director, Ruth Vinz, is featured in a new series by Teachers College: Mini Moments with Big Thinkers. Watch below as Dr. Vinz discusses the role of literature in understanding social and cultural life:
Publication: Westport Now
Date: March 14, 2013
Summary: SEI works to prepare Westport students to be creative, critical thinkers in order to solve real world problems globally in the future
"Westporter Deborah Sawch, a former Staples High School English teacher now working for Columbia, stressed that while Westport’s schools were top tier “complacency is not okay,” and that continued improvement to compete globally is imperative. She cited an international student assessment test showing that U.S. students “are woefully behind.”
“It was a Sputnik moment, a wake up call,” she said. “Are we really preparing students for the world?”
Read the full article on Westport Now.
Publication: Westport News
Date: March 12, 2013
Summary: Launched in 2010, Westport 2025 is a districtwide, kindergarten-through-12th-grade curriculum initiative, which aims to develop students critical thinking, creative, communication and problem-solving skills.
Read the full article on Westport News.
Publication: Columbia Spectator
Date: November 28, 2012
Summary: Teachers College has begun to fulfill its pledge of a partnership with 12 Harlem public schools, establishing professional development workshops for teachers and expanding after-school programming for seven schools this semester.
"The Partnership Consortium is a wonderful way for Columbia students to learn about the day-to-day life of NYC public schools from a student’s perspective, and not from a professor, or text,” Landis said in an email. “Having this hands-on experience will hopefully bring more qualified, passionate graduates to public schools.”
The information garnered from focus groups will “help inform the development of family engagement programming that will be tailored to each specific school setting to address identified barriers to student success,” Michael Laucello, the teaching assistant for Brassard’s class, said in an email."
Read the full article on Columbia Spectator.
Publication: TC Today
Date: May 19, 2010
"In essence, “getting in the door” is what Vinz, now the Enid & Lester Morse Chair and Professor in English Education/The Teaching of English, has been doing ever since, serving as an ongoing point of connection between TC and city schools. As the English Education program has grown steadily on her watch—from 50 students to nearly 250—she and her colleagues have helped create a continuous loop in which TC pre-service students student-teach in local schools while learning their craft; accept teaching jobs in those same schools after graduation; mentor subsequent pre-service students from the College in their classrooms; return to TC for advanced degrees; become school leaders; and, completing the cycle, work with the College to bring the next generation of student teachers to their schools.
One result, Vinz says, is that “we constantly foster new partnerships as our program grows.” Another is that Vinz and her colleagues and students have forged close and enduring relationships with individual schools that have enabled them to conduct outreach and research focused on adolescent “literacies”—the meanings that young people make from a variety of sources and how they communicate those meanings to different audiences.
The vehicle for this work has been the Morse Center for the Professional Education of Teachers, which Vinz founded in 2002, and which has since housed a number of different literacy-focused efforts."
Publication: National Writing Project
Date: July 2009
Summary: Working to turn a broad range of students into published authors, the Student Press Initiative deepens the learning experience for thousands of young writers.
Read the full article at National Writing Project.
Publication: The Muslim Observer
Date: March 5, 2009
Summary: Faculty at Teachers College have developed a curriculum guide for public school teachers designed to enhance understanding of Islam and promote tolerance of Muslim students.
"As educators in the era of globalization, we need to ensure that students are learning about one another from one another—especially in one of the most diverse cities in the world. However, any teacher in a multicultural setting regardless of location could use these curricula and implement it easily into their classroom,” says Teachers College faculty member Erick Gordon, who directs the Student Press Initiative."
Read the full article on The Muslim Observer.
Publication: Columbia Spectator
Date: April 25, 2008
Summary: Founded by Gordon six years ago, the SPI starts curriculum-based publications at city schools, often targeting the “neediest” classrooms. The program has worked with students in grade school and high school and with prison inmates.
"SPI allows students to produce a range of projects. Last year, one school published a book profiling social activism, where each student studied current social causes in the city and wrote a profile on a particular activist, acquiring the chance to learn journalistic basics. In another school, students worked with a group of senior citizens for a year in the Bronx, recording and printing the seniors’ oral histories. Last year, the program published 23 books, and this year Gordon expects to put out 30 or more."
Read the full article on Columbia Spectator.
Publication: Teachers College
Date: July 22, 2007
Summary: TC’s Student Press Initiative expands from classroom writing projects to helping special interest public high schools flesh out their missions.
Read the full article on Teachers College.
Publication: The Village Voice
Date: June 22, 2007
Summary: The Student Press Initiative works with young inmates on Rikers Island to record
"Gordon says the process wasn't an easy one. "The association most of these guys have with interviewing is the DA," he says. "We have to develop a lot of trust." The logistics were also tough. His authors were often at court, talking with their attorneys, transferred to other facilities, put in solitary, and a few fortunate ones were released.
By the time of the book launch, only one of the 18 authors, 21-year-old Trevor Cole, was actually on hand to read what he'd written."
Read the full article at The Village Voice.