Telling my Own (edTPA) Story: Challenges

We’re 6 weeks into the semester, and I haven’t blogged about edTPA. A few things have been holding me back. One is obviously that I was asked to sign a non-disclosure form, and I’m having irrational paranoia about disclosing the wrong things.

Another speedbump is the cognitive dissonance that I feel with respect to edTPA. On one hand, I want to support my students in all ways toward their goal of becoming school librarians, and edTPA is now a mandated part of that path. On the other hand, there are so many elements of the exam that raise an eyebrow, from test’s corporate parent Pearson, to the slippery consent process to the prescribed and limited role of local assessment.

The other challenge I am running up against is that so much of my experience is wrapped up in the experiences of my students. I do not want to speak for them, but I will inevitably speak about them. What are the ramifications of publicly ruminating on shared experiences?

I had my first glimpse of the entanglements that underlie that question as a graduate student. I started my doctoral program at Columbia in Fall 2001. The second Tuesday of the semester was 9/11/01, which changed my life as a New Yorker and a grad student in innumerable ways.

About a year later, a member of my cohort brought an essay to my attention that was written by one of our professors. In the essay, he described the sentiments of members of our cohort; each of our responses to 9/11 were summarized in a sentence or two, and we all recognized each other through his rendering.

Upon reading this, I felt weirdly betrayed and robbed of my subjectivity and my ability to respond on my own. Of course no one would know who we were, but we knew. As public as this piece of writing was, I felt unrecognized as a person, even as I recognized myself; an unsettling feeling.

Fast-forward 13 years, through Friendster, MySpace, Facebook and Twitter, a lot of growing up, and a wholly changed consciousness of what it means to share an experience, live in public and build community. Now I’m the professor. I often use this story to beg the question of whether and how teachers can write about their teaching experiences in ways that preserves their subjectivity and that of their students.

Now when I think about that essay, I don’t feel robbed. But I do remember what that felt like to feel that way, which is why I want to be clear about what my goals are in doing this personal but public writing.

I hope to work through my own thoughts on participating in the administration of edTPA. All knowing is partial, and this blog will just be one part of what can be “known” about edTPA. I hope many voices will join this discussion, in comments or their own blogs, tweets, and actions that look critically at the changing landscape of teacher preparation.

About Jessica Hochman

I am an assistant professor at Pratt Institute in the School of Information and Library Science (SILS) where I also coordinate the LMS Program (school librarians, for the uninitiated). I live in Brooklyn, NY.
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