In Case You Teach English: An Interactive Casebook for Prospective and Practicing Teachers

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9780130623102: In Case You Teach English: An Interactive Casebook for Prospective and Practicing Teachers

The first new casebook in more than ten years, it contains twenty current cases that present real classroom dilemmas English teachers are likely to encounter in today's classroom. The casebook is designed to help new and experienced English teachers become thoughtful and reflective practitioners who are well equipped to deal with complex and current problems. A grades and issues matrix identifies each case according to middle or high school grade level and indicates the issue(s) on which they focus. Twenty current cases represent real teaching dilemmas with no easy solutions so teachers can benefit from thinking through the dilemmas and developing possible solutions and consequences with other teachers. Focus questions and discussion questions accompany each case. For new and experienced English teachers.

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About the Author:

Larry R. Johannessen is an Associate Professor of English at Northern Illinois University, where he teaches English education classes and literature courses primarily dealing with the Vietnam War. He holds a B.A. from California State University at Hayward, California, and an M.A.T. and Ph.D. from the University of Chicago. He taught high school English and history for 10 years. In addition to chapters in books, he has contributed over 40 articles to scholarly journals. He is author of Illumination Rounds: Teaching the Literature of the Vietnam War (Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English, 1992) and co-author of two popular NCTE publications: Writing About Literature (Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English, 1984) and Designing and Sequencing Prewriting Activities (Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English, 1982). He is listed in Who's Who Among America's Teachers and Who's Who in American Education. His current research is in the areas of teacher knowledge and thinking, particularly for preservice and novice teachers; secondary school English curriculum and instruction; literacy learning; and the literature and film of the Vietnam War. He lives in Wheaton, Illinois, with his wife, Elizabeth Kahn.

Thomas M. McCann has taught English in a variety of school settings, including 8 years in an alternative school. He holds a B.A. degree from Northern Illinois University DeKalb, Illinois; an M.A. from Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, Illinois; an M.A. from Saint Xavier University, Chicago; and a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago. He has published articles in Research in the Teaching of English, the English Journal, the Illinois English Bulletin, and California English. With Peter Smagorinsky and Steve Kern, he is the coauthor of Explorations: Introductory Activities for Literature and Composition, 7-12 (Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English, 1987). He has taught for 4 high schools, 2 colleges, and 3 universities, where he worked with preservice and practicing teachers in graduate education programs. He has supervised teachers in high school for 20 years. As a department chair at Community High School in West Chicago, Illinois, he teaches English and supervises other English teachers. He also serves as an adjunct professor of English at Elmhurst College, Elmhurst, Illinois. He has collaborated with Larry Johannessen on research about the concerns of teachers during their formative years of teaching. He lives in Elmhurst, Illinois, with his wife Pamela and daughter Katie.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

As we were writing this book over the last two years, we interviewed several beginning teachers, held formal conferences with dozens of new and experienced teachers, and engaged in innumerable casual conversations with a variety of teachers. In addition, we surveyed preservice teachers about their expectations for their impending careers. Two themes emerged from our research: Preservice teachers are anxious about what is about to happen to them as they enter the profession; and many new teachers suffer a great deal as they try to navigate the tricky waters of becoming a professional educator. We know many teachers. We believe that teaching is a significant undertaking, with long-lasting effects on individuals and communities. We cannot afford to lose talented teachers because they were ill-equipped to contend with the challenges, annoyances, and frustrations that can grow into career-ending episodes. We hope that this modest effort in some way equips teachers with the strategic stepping-stones to help them to avoid disaster. In short, we hope to reduce the suffering and keep talented teachers in the profession.

FOCUS OF THE TEXT

A characteristic feature of the casebook is that it requires the user to interact with others. The strength of the casebook lies in using the text with other critical thinkers. Unlike a self-help book that prescribes practices, the casebook invites the user to engage with others in exploring possible responses to troubling situations. Our own experience as teachers tells us that learners develop some valuable habits of mind when they immerse themselves in significant conversations about issues that have relevance to their lives. The discussion reveals that reasonable people can see the same issue in astoundingly different ways. The variety of opinions exposes the possibilities. Challenges and questions prompt the thinker to use logic. Thinkers who develop a model for reasoning learn to support claims by providing grounds, to consider exceptions to generalizations, to represent fairly the opposing views, and to assess the alternative opinions. A series of conversations about some compelling cases highlights the image that teachers do not have to labor in isolation; in fact, we hope that readers will realize that the most satisfying and productive way to function as a teacher is to proceed in concert with others.

Each case in this book portrays as realistically as possible the tangled network of possibilities and considerations that necessarily infuse any thorny teaching experience. We hope to make the situations tough, and we want to pressure the readers of the book to make the hard choices. Experience tells us that difficult teaching situations are tough because there are factors that constrain us, and alternative perspectives that challenge us.

We contend that the use of this casebook will promote critical thinking. Our understanding of critical thinking involves the recognition of multiple points of view or the identification of several courses of action. Critical thinking necessarily involves the assessment of the relative merits of the points of view or the courses of action. In many instances, the assessment involves the weighing of advantages and disadvantages associated with each choice. With practice, the reader of the casebook will develop the habits of the critical and strategic thinker who can reasonably project the likely consequences for choices and embrace the choices that will promote the greatest benefit and cause the least damage.

ORGANIZATION OF THE TEXT

We understand that instructors may not want to assign their students to study all of the twenty cases included in the book. We have included a Grade and Issues Matrix inside the front cover to support the selection of the cases that might be the focus of a group's discussion. In this sense, the book is nonlinear. There is no need to progress from Case 1 to Case 20. The readers will pick and choose cases, guided by their particular goals, philosophical perspectives, and particular teaching contexts. We hope that we have included a sufficient variety of teaching environments as well as critical issues.

We have tried to support the efforts of the students who have been asked to study the text. As we would with our own students when we assign reading, we provide a preview and suggest some focus questions to guide study The cases themselves tell a story, placing the reader in the position of the troubled character, prompting the participant to take some action. We offer a set of questions to guide discussion, but we recognize that after one initiates discussion of the cases, the discussion has its own momentum and does not require a prescribed set of prompts. We have suggested a few related research and writing projects as an extension of the thinking about each case. Instructors will likely suggest their own topics and modes of research as well.

On many occasions when we field-tested the cases, discussion participants shared related stories. Reviewers of early versions of the text observed that the twenty cases reminded them of at least fifty others from their own experiences. We guess that the reader has some compelling teaching stories to tell, or soon will have some. The twenty cases included in this book obviously do not exhaust the challenges that might beset an English teacher. For those who have a story to tell, we recommend a framework for composing the story in a way that will make it a powerful instructional tool. We hope that the book encourages readers to tell their own stories and suggests the importance of listening sympathetically to the stories of others.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

First, we would like to thank Dan C. Lortie, who taught us using the case study method developed at Harvard and showed us the value of case studies in teacher education. We would also like to thank George Hillocks, Jr., who taught us how to teach and what reflection-in-action really means. It is important that we thank Robert Small and Joseph Strzepek, whose groundbreaking casebook for preservice English teachers opened the door for our work. We would also like to thank our students and colleagues who have contributed in numerous ways, especially for the real-life teaching problems that were the inspiration for some of these cases. For their support, encouragement, critical comments, and wise counsel, our thanks go to Peter Smagorinsky Elizabeth Kahn, Joe Flanagan, Pamela Gentile McCann, Jody O'Connell, John VonKerens, and Dianne Chambers. We also recognize the significant technical contributions Barney Ricca provided in the preparation of the manuscript. We would also like to thank the many preservice and practicing teachers who allowed us to field-test our cases with them.

We would also like to thank the reviewers of this book for their helpful comments and suggestions: Peggy Albers, Georgia State University; Anna Bolling, California State University-Stanislaus; John Bushman, University of Kansas; Todd Goodson, Kansas State University; Patricia Kelly Virginia Tech; and Wayne Slater, University of Maryland. We also very much appreciate our editors, especially Allyson Sharp and Lea Baranowski, for their support and encouragement throughout the development, writing, and production of the book and for their insights into both English education as a discipline and current needs in the market.

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