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Amanda Jansen
Works at University of Delaware
Attended Michigan State University
Lives in Northern Delaware
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Amanda Jansen

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Okay, here is the update from my undergrads who are going to (or are hoping to) obtain their teaching jobs through Teach for America....

Context: I had dinner last night with two student teachers (who took my middle school math methods course last semester). TFA has a few deadlines, so one of the student teachers has already been accepted into TFA and the other one is still going through the application process. One of the student teachers, the one who has been accepted to TFA, has been assigned to move to Phoenix (so that's why we had dinner -- so we could talk about living in the Phoenix area... she has to move there by May 28, I think). The other student teacher has made a lot of cuts and is going to the in-person interview in a couple of weeks. They're both excellent students and poised, confidence young adults who would present well in an interview setting, so I am not surprised that they would be chosen for something like this.

I asked them to help me understand why a teacher who was certified through a reputable teacher education program would choose TFA as a path.

1. The security of knowing that they already will have a job. These teachers are being certified K-8. They are nervous that they won't get a job. (I understand; I, too, was nervous about getting a job when I finished school.) But they will have middle school math certification! Shouldn't they easily find a job? Yes, but... they did not fall in love with the idea of teaching middle school aged kids. (I feel like I failed a bit if they did not fall in the love with the idea of teaching middle school after taking my middle school math methods course....) They want to teach upper elementary grades. The student teacher who has already been selected knows for sure already now that she will have a job teaching elementary school. This gives her a feeling of relief.

When the candidates apply for TFA, they choose and rank order 10 regions of the country among 46 options. Phoenix was her third choice. Then they are told that they HAVE to take the first job offer that TFA finds for them.

2. The prestige that comes with being selected for TFA that could make the teachers more marketable when they apply for jobs in the future. Apparently, they said that TFA has an 11% acceptance rate. My TFA-accepted student teacher wants to eventually go teach elementary school back in her home town, in Northern New Jersey, where elementary teaching positions are tough to come by. She hopes that being selected by TFA carries prestige, something like an "award," that would allow her resume to stand out when she applies for jobs back home in the future and tries to move back to Northern New Jersey. (As an aside, I told her that moving away from the region where I grew up was a healthy choice for me, and I encouraged her to remain open to living all sorts of places in her life, as she is currently doing...)

3. There are some financial benefits. TFA will provide relocation grants for up to $6,000. So, if she is going to move across the country, it is nice to have some support for it. TFA provides grants for up to $5,500 each year for two years for graduate education (for non-certified teachers, they use this money to pay for their teacher certification program, I think? and certified teachers can use this money toward a master's degree. my student applied for an online master's program at Arizona State University and will use her education grant toward this degree).
https://www.teachforamerica.org/why-teach-for-america/compensation-and-benefits

4. There is some professional development provided for TFA teachers. They receive a 5 week professional development experience in the summer (the crash course for the non-certified people, I guess?). It sounds like there is also some coaching and online support, in addition to the graduate courses they have funding to take.

5. A guarantee of being placed in a high needs school. This appeals to one of my student teachers more than the other.

I did not write these in order of importance. I don't really know which theme was more or less important to my student teachers. I just numbered them in case the issues would benefit from having an index if people wanted to talk about them.

I said to the TFA-accepted student teacher, "You know, if you wanted to teach in Phoenix, you could probably just move there on your own, show up, and get a middle school math teaching job." She thought that was too risky. If she wanted to move to a place, it was easier to move with a job, and she really wanted to teach elementary school.

That's the update. I like that my student teachers are adventurous and are open to moving to other places. I like that this student teacher in particular is going to Phoenix, because Phoenix would benefit from having her there, because she's a good teacher, and I might even be able to see her and meet up with her when I am there! Although I'm skeptical that TFA is going to be super helpful to her (I don't have any evidence that I should be skeptical... I have a belief based on nothing that TFA is kind of duddy.... maybe it's great?), I like the idea that there is some induction support for her in her first two years of teaching. I think that we need to be smarter, as a field, about how to support teachers in their first 1 - 5 years on the job.
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Amanda Jansen

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More fun with batteries. Recently I had to fight with my cell phone to get that battery to start charging again. Now... it's my Dell laptop (Latitude E5430). It's only about 1.5 years old, so I should not be having this kind of battery trouble.

It's plugged in with the battery in place, but says that it is not charging. I tried a work around that did not work for me.
http://www.sevenforums.com/hardware-devices/153161-plugged-not-charging.html

Any other advice?
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Amanda Jansen

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Google+ & age. Should young ones be able to use Google+?
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I'd love to be able to let my soon-to-be 12-year-old daughter on my GA +Google+
But since she has to enter her age when joining G+ she can't. Also, I learned that you can't fake your age, because it can never be changed! I know they are addressing this in the GAE edition, but I don't think it's possible in the regular free Google Apps edition. I should search for recent changes, because I just don't dare jeopardise her account by testing. 
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Have her in circles
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Amanda Jansen

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What do we think about the Common Core State Standards? More than one person has asked me on Facebook about this issue, so I am putting up a post -- hoping that others will chime in, too. Let's keep this discussion friendly and try to weigh positives and negatives. I'm interested in hearing from parents, teachers and school professionals, community members, and academic faculty -- anyone at all, really! I hope that we can try to understand each others' experiences.

So, here are some thoughts from me... I write here as a former middle school math teacher and a current professor of mathematics education. I am not a parent. I do teach future teachers and work with them while they are in local schools. I also am in local schools regularly for research. I know about the math standards only. I know very little about the literacy standards.

Some positives about CCSS-M...

Sharing goals for students' learning between schools, school districts, and even states can be helpful for at least two reasons: 

(1) Once we agree on WHAT students should learn, we can focus on learning how to teach those ideas and skills more effectively (because the nature of effective teaching is related to what we want students to learn). 

(2) Sharing goals for students learning is helpful for families when they move from one school to another. (Sometimes when kids move, getting back on track can be rough if what is taught in that grade differs from district to district or state to state, so sharing learning goals in common helps with that.)

Another positive:

(3) The Standards for Mathematical Practice are super great! They promote the value of fostering students' reasoning about mathematics, which leads to a greater chance that they will be making sense out of what they are learning. (But I fear that teachers tend not to know about or prioritize them, because they are taught over time rather than in particular lessons and they are harder to assess.)

Some concerns I have...

(i) I am concerned that rhetoric of "rigor" is valued over research about students' thinking. In the name of "rigor," academic content was pushed to earlier grades (e.g., division of fractions used to be a sixth grade learning goal and now it's in fifth grade), just to say that the new standards are more challenging. This was done without an investigation into the research literature on students' developmental readiness. In some cases, what has been pushed down into earlier grades conflicts with what research says about what students are cognitively capable of processing (in terms of levels of abstraction) at particular ages.

(ii) I am concerned that blame is being placed on teachers when the problem is more with the rollout of the standards and associated assessments. The Common Core is being pushed forward without piloting, without thorough research, and without enough support for teachers to make sense of them and have tools for teaching them effectively, yet the teachers are being disciplined (even in terms of lowering their pay) if they do not have high enough student test scores. And the tests will be harder now (more rigor, remember?), so of course the students will do WORSE, but teachers will be blamed. 

I have more thoughts, but these five will do for now.

What do you think?

(Cross-posted on Facebook...)
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Just a quick note relevant to this topic...I just had to explain to some folks on Facebook that there were no CC standards for science or social studies. 
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Amanda Jansen

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if you don't already know about this site, I highly recommend it. Each podcast is about 30 minutes long, and it is an interview of an author of a recent mathematics education research publication. It's a great way to gain a different perspective on a recent article -- before or after you read it -- such as situating the article in the researcher's professional history or some of the backstory about the study.
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Amanda Jansen

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My first Google+ post. What is this... I don't even.
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Still looking around myself...
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People
Have her in circles
343 people
Starr Nordgren's profile photo
Education
  • Michigan State University
    Ph.D., educational psychology, 1999 - 2004
  • University of Arizona
    B.S., mathematics, 1992 - 1996
Basic Information
Gender
Female
Work
Occupation
professor
Employment
  • University of Delaware
    associate professor, 2010 - present
  • University of Delaware
    assistant professor, 2004 - 2010
  • Mesa Public Schools
    mathematics teacher, 1996 - 1999
Places
Map of the places this user has livedMap of the places this user has livedMap of the places this user has lived
Currently
Northern Delaware
Previously
near Phoenix, Arizona - Lansing, Michigan - Tucson, Arizona - various suburbs of Phoenix, Arizona - Pampa, Texas - various cities in Southern CA - San Jose, CA