P135: Teachers as species: Survive, interact, adapt, and thrive
The adage, “The only constant is change,” is often used to describe the state of perpetual reform in urban schools. While some change can be good, constant change can create challenges for the teaching profession (Fung, 2012). While much must be done to combat instability (Payne, 2008), it is also necessary to better prepare teachers to cope with change. This requires “adaptable expertise,” the ability to excel in both routine and unpredictably shifting conditions (Clark &Feldon, 2008). Developing the robust ability to be adapters (Brown, 2004) in these environments, we argue, is a central component for success and longevity in the field of teaching. In this presentation, four experienced urban teachers share their reflections. These teachers have participated in two aligned professional development programs developed by Loyola University Chicago. Key characteristics of these programs include: (1) long-term teacher participation; (2) sustained relationships with mentors and peers; (3) equal emphasis on constructing knowledge and applying/refining knowledge in classroom practice; (4) adaptable instructional resources that are open-ended enough to encourage flexible use but structured enough to support fidelity of implementation (Brown, 2004); (5) emphasis on sound reasoning over “correct” solutions; and (6) a professional learning community that reinforces shared personal and professional values that remain stable despite external change. Teachers will trace their experiences with these programs, underscoring connections to program elements, and share thoughts about why these elements may be supporting their own longevity in the profession.