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Watson College News

Nationally Acclaimed Educator Frances O’Connell Rust Visits the UNCW Campus

Sunday, November 08, 2015

Frances O’Connell Rust spoke to faculty, staff, students, alumni and guests of the Watson College who gathered in McNeill Hall for WCE’s fall Public Speaker Series event on Oct. 7.

A Senior Fellow and Director of Teacher Education programs at the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education, Rust focused her presentation on solutions to two problems educators face today: high teacher defections and “a negative conversation in our nation about the teaching profession itself.”

She encouraged college faculty to influence the conversation in a positive way by publishing research, speaking from research to policy makers and using social media to share success stories occurring in classrooms. She also said teachers in the field need more support.

The U.S. employs 200,000 first-year teachers every year and 26,000 leave the profession after just one year, Rust said. Many current initiatives focus on support for programs like Teach for America that fill slots left by those defecting and a “search for gold” to find the perfect teacher education program; solutions she feels are short-sighted.

The situation is complex, and it would be more effective to take a longer time horizon, push beyond the one, two or four years students are enrolled in teacher preparation programs and find ways to support teachers over the course of their careers, she said.

Rust referenced Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Outliers, The Story of Success, to explain why a narrow focus on teacher preparation is misguided.

“Gladwell says that it takes roughly ten thousand hours of practice to achieve mastery in a field, so why is it that our nation expects teachers to achieve success in just one year?” she asked.

“As teacher educators we need to think about grabbing more time,” Rust said. “That doesn’t mean making programs longer but it does mean taking ourselves into our teachers professional lives, building relationships and finding ways to keep the relationships going.”

As an example, she said U. Penn’s beginning teacher support program has been expanded to include a celebration for alumni when they achieve the milestone of teaching for five years.

Rust said school-university partnerships can also be effective in providing support for teachers and helping principals create work environments that support teacher retention, but she cautioned that these partnerships need to be nourished with strong leadership and school and community support in order to grow.

Calling teacher education “misrepresented and misunderstood,” she encouraged faculty to help shift the conversation through relationships and research publications, then use social media “to share good stories about your work.”

Rust met with faculty members on Oct. 8 for an open discussion. The meeting was followed by an open discussion with students.

The Watson College Public Series was established in 2013 with a goal of bringing nationally known scholars to campus to share knowledge and ideas. Previous presenters include Sonia Nieto of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst; Lisa Delpit of Southern University in Baton Rouge; Michael Apple of the University of Wisconsin, Madison; Terrell Strayhorn of The Ohio State University and Kenneth Cushner of Kent State University.

Rust’s presentation and all previous public speaker presentations can be viewed online at www.uncw.edu/ed/speakerseries.