Education Opinion


By Emmet Rosenfeld — April 27, 2007 3 min read
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The final test consists of six essay questions, a half hour for each. That’s three hours of intense concentration at the keyboard. I’m going to have to get in shape to tackle this.

Fortunately, the NBPTS website provides “exercises” to help candidates prepare for the assessment center. Copied below is the text from an NBPTS guide (in italics), followed by my comments. Next week, I will turn to the “retired prompts.” For now, let me get tired the first time.

Exercise 1: Literary Analysis
Teachers will analyze the connection between literary devices and meaning. They will be
asked to read a poem, discuss theme and effect, and use details from the poem to show
how identified literary devices affect the text.

Literary interpretation? I do this to kids all the time. But seriously, “How does it make you feel?” are two questions that I consider the one truly original contribution I’ve made to the teaching profession (“But that’s only one question, Mr R!” someone yells at this point.)

To which I reply, “No… it’s two.” First: How does it make you FEEL? Second: HOW does it make you feel? In other words, literary interpretation is based first on a reader’s genuine response to the text; from that, one can attempt to describe how the author manipulated text to inspire the emotional response.

Exercise 2: Universal Themes
Teachers will demonstrate the ability to analyze and understand text. They will be asked
to read a prose selection, determine the theme, and relate it to the human condition. They
will also select a nonprint text and connect it to both the passage and the theme.

I can do this in my students’ sleep. Just today I spent two long periods with tenth graders discussing themes in Frankenstein. In a passage from Chapter 7 that resonates eerily after the Tech massacre, Victor Frankenstein expresses abhorrence over “the being [he] had cast among mankind and endowed with the will and power to effect purposes of horror…”. What void must the shooter’s family feel now, I wonder? I don’t think this is the sort of nonprint text I should use on the test.

Exercise 3: Teaching Reading
Teachers will show their knowledge of the reading process and ability to analyze student
reading. They will be asked to read a passage, a student prompt, and a student response,
and to determine the reasons for misconceptions in the reading. Teachers will also
provide strategies to correct the misconceptions.

Smells like grading a paper. I wonder if I can bring one from the stack on my desk, and kill two birds with one stone.

Exercise 4: Language Study
Teachers will demonstrate an understanding of language study and ability to determine
patterns in a student’s language development. They will be asked to read a second
language learner’s oral and written response to a prompt, analyze patterns, and provide
strategies to further develop that student’s language.

This one is obviously geared to teaching ELLs (English Language Learners), a population I haven’t worked with formally since they were called ESL (English as a Second Language). The acronyms change, but I still remember fondly how a unit on writing business letters with ninth graders turned into a year-long project during which we obtained over fifty flags to hang in the school library.

Exercise 5: Analysis of Writing
Teachers will demonstrate an understanding of audience and purpose in writing and an
ability to analyze techniques authors employ to make a passage effective. They will be
asked to read a non-fiction passage, discuss audience and purpose, and analyze
techniques that make the piece effective for the audience and purpose.

Funny, I was just talking to a group of teachers last night at FCPS’s 16th Annual Teacher Researcher Conference about this very topic. I was trying to drum up business for the writing-project sponsored course I hope to teach this summer for George Mason. The class will help teacher-researchers and others write for publication to an audience and in a form of their choice. A young teacher-researcher might want to present her findings to colleagues on her grade level team in the form of a workshop; a more accomplished teacher may decide to craft an article for the English Journal to promote best practices across the profession.

Exercise 6: Teaching Writing
Teachers will show an understanding of the writing process. They will be asked to read a
student response, identify and discuss weaknesses, and provide strategies for correction.

And I thought this was going to make me break a sweat.

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