Introduction to Teaching

Spring 2016: Dr. Laura Turchi, instructor

About this class

This is my third year at UH, and I've taught one or both of these courses almost every semester. This is the first time I've been in charge of the on-line section as well as a face-to-face class. I've taught several hybrid courses, but never one completely on-line. I expect to learn a lot from the experience. But then, I learn from teaching every semester: this class is the ongoing work of a wonderful team of women. Depending on enrollments, as many as six instructors share the sections - we plan together, give common major assessments, and coordinate carefully with the CUIN 3221 Technology course. As a team, we care especially about public schools, and we respect the private, parochial, and charter schools that also serve the students of Houston. Our shared goal is for the course to provide you a solid introduction into the complicated world of education. You know what it meant for you to be in classrooms from pre-Kindergarten through 12th grade. Now you will learn about the context of your experiences: national, state, and local policies; administrative structures; US education history; social justice aspirations and challenges; instructional designs; educational philosophies; the learning sciences; law; money; and more.

Office Hours: Mondays from 1-4 and by appointment

Students can use Skype (laura.turchi1), Blackboard Collaborate (link from the class Blackboard shell), or call or text in to my cell phone 828-545-2527. Of course you can also visit me in my office, Farish Hall #344 (713-743-5937).

My research interests (more on these later)

(Some of) How I got here...

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From student to teacher (which is not to say that is a one-way street) ...

Above pictured is Lyons Township High School in suburban Chicago - where I grew up and graduated, last century. Even by Texas standards this was (is) a big high school: my graduating class was 1150. I have thought a lot about those days and how that institution still shapes my thinking. For instance, I was a pretty good musician, and I spent all my electives on choir and orchestra. This was in the days before graduation requirements like you probably had - in fact, a book written about the time was The Shopping Mall High School: Winners and Losers in the Educational Marketplace (Powell, Farrar, and Cohen). There were lots of choices, and little guidance. We were tracked - I think there were five levels, and I hugely benefited from being in AP/Honors literature and history and science. But not so much when I couldn't do that level for math: I struggled, and I was "dropped down" to "superior" math, and then I dumped math as soon as I did the bare minimum for graduation. Should there have been an intervention? Should someone have said - hey, you do well in science. What's the problem with math? Maybe.

In hindsight I am able to see the kinds of privilege that I enjoyed as a white middle-class person, even as being female was a disadvantage. Even though I was not one of the wealthy kids, the affluence of my suburb allowed me to have access to a world class education. Black and brown kids were not very visible to me, and in my suburb they literally lived on the other side of the tracks. The diversities that mattered the most to me were being smart, where I had some status; being rich, where I did not; and being talented, which opened some doors for me.

I had a tremendous English teacher sophomore year - Lorana Gleason - who I credit with teaching me to write (not just respond, but think) about literature. More about her later.

To the right is a picture from graduation at St. Olaf College in Northfield, MN.The cute guy is my husband, UH English/Creative Writing professor Pete Turchi. We met when we were both Junior Year Abroad students at Oxford. The woman who looks like my sister is my mom, Dr. Sandy Fallon, who today is still a marriage and family counselor. We argue all the time about whether "it's the school's fault" or "it's the family's fault," etc., when we're trying to figure out how to fix the world.

St. Olaf College at the time was an affordable private college. It had, and still has, tremendous music programs. I lasted about a year as a music major, quickly discovering how many people were just as enthusiastic and talented and smart as me. Ouch. I found out I had a knack for philosophy and discovered the Paracollege - an experimental college-within-the-college where students followed the English system of tutorials and lectures and culminating projects and final examinations. This is a terrific and expensive way to educate people, and the Paracollege no longer exists. But it was wonderful for me. I combined philosophy and theories about human creativity with major studies in English literature. I am still close to Dr. Bobbi Helling, who was my educational psychology professor and a tremendous mentor. More on her later, too.

I also ended up taking five years to graduate, because I added on teacher licensure and student teaching. It is horrible to think what a brat I was in those required education courses. I was an Oxford scholar! Who was going to tell me anything about teaching? Sigh. I had so very very much to learn.

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