One opportunity provided by the need to translate practices was that student teachers learned about the importance of moment-to-moment decision-making, which is a central tenet of our program. While we want to give the students strategies and ideas, we always want them to adapt these practices to their particular classrooms and students. Learning from the websites enabled student teachers to do the work of re-imagining a set of practices and ideas for new contexts. This supported our ideas of helping students to develop a stance and a set of beliefs that will undergird their practices whether they are teaching from a scripted curriculum or in a district that supports teachers to develop their own pedagogies and materials.
During my first year as a teacher educator at Penn GSE, one student commented in a midyear evaluation that we were teaching them urban theory and suburban methods (Schultz, 2003). She meant that we are an urban-focused program. The experiences, knowledge and practices that new teachers need to enter into and stay in urban public schools is at the center of our teacher education program.
At the same time, she saw what she perceived as a focus on progressive teaching methods (such as writing workshops) as more appropriate to suburban rather than urban settings where these practices are increasingly rare. My goal for the remainder of the year became to convince her that we were teaching urban methods and theory and that they were inextricably linked. Student teachers in our program continue to have to mediate between the ideas we introduce and the realities in their classrooms. We try to help them by explicitly addressing the issues surrounding teaching the core curriculum in our classrooms. Still they need to translate, and the practice of translating between grade levels and geographic locations gave them practice for this.