Over the course of the 2021-22 year, Sharon Field and David Parker had the honor and pleasure of consulting with Dr. Derek Furr and Dr. Jaime Alves, professors and administrators of Bard College’s Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) Program in New York State. The work centered on their desire to better meet the needs of teacher candidates with disabilities in becoming stronger self advocates in the rigorous master’s program while also learning how to advocate for themselves in the classroom after becoming full-time teachers. Through their self-study, the MAT leaders determined that they wanted to infuse their program with self-determination research and practices, self-advocacy training, and executive functioning coaching techniques. This work culminated in a three-part virtual workshop series conducted by Sharon (self-determination), David and Bard’s Director of Student Disability Access & Resources, Erin Braselmann (self-advocacy and the ADA), and Kristen Rademacher and Dr. Marc Howlett from UNC-Chapel Hill (coaching in a college setting). Participants included faculty, staff and administrators from various Bard College departments as well as their colleagues from affiliated high school programs. Each workshop included instructional time, practice activities in break-out rooms, lively conversation and the exchange of ideas and resources. David Parker from 2BSD interviewed Derek and Jaime a few months after the workshops’ conclusion to learn more about the effects of the self-study and training experiences on their program.
David: What were your hopes when you decided to work with this team of consultants?
Jaime Alves & Derek Furr: When we first began our work with David and Sharon, and then Kristen and Marc, we had a number of practical questions we were hoping to answer:
- How can we help MAT students with disabilities identify potential challenges posed by our graduate program’s individual components?
- How can we help MAT students with disabilities assess their own needs when (and before) facing those challenges?
- How can we (realistically) help meet the needs of our students with disabilities?
- How can we help students with disabilities understand the potential challenges posed by the profession of secondary school teaching?
- How can we prepare students with disabilities to continually assess their own needs in the profession, and locate resources to meet those needs?
David: How did the consulting process influence your thinking and planning?
Jaime Alves & Derek Furr: One of the primary ways that our work with this team of consultants influenced us was in helping us reframe our questions so that we addressed the needs of all MAT students together, taking a Universal Design approach. Working with David and Sharon – talking through the program’s “story” behind these questions – helped surface ideas about how all students entering this pre-professional program are typically, and more generally, also entering a massively transformative time in their lives and careers. This comes with an opportunity and even an obligation to reflect on how they face challenges as individuals, how they assess their own needs and advocate for themselves, and what they do when they are even momentarily “stuck” or at a crossroads.
We remain interested in holding some space for the fact that students with various kinds of disabilities may have unique needs, and that some students would benefit from particular kinds of accommodations that other students might never need or want. And we remain interested in articulating program demands in such a way as to help all prospective students understand, as clearly as possible, what challenges they are inviting into their lives when they opt to enter this program and the teaching profession. We believe we have developed a more deeply integrated understanding of how that transparency can and should reach all prospective students, and how the work we do to follow up with students as individuals remains an important strength of our small program – a strength that has been bolstered by our work with this team.
David: At this early stage, what are some of your thoughts about applying workshop information to the MAT program?
Jaime Alves & Derek Furr: The team we worked with offered a set of practical tools that we are already using in conversations with students this year. As they entered their first field placements and encountered the kinds of “culture shock” that can come along with one’s first professional-ish position, or just the many surprises attendant upon being in a
public school setting as a “teacher” rather than a secondary school student, several of our MAT candidates have – unsurprisingly – come forward to discuss their anxieties and stressors, current or former clinical diagnoses, and more. We are finding ourselves feeling readier and more confident in our abilities to have and extend these conversations, using discussion techniques that we learned from David, Sharon, Kristen, and Marc. We are considering self-determination frameworks, implementing coaching questions and strategies, and generally feeling more solid in our understanding of what we should reasonably expect to be able to offer our students, and where we can suggest resources for them outside of our program. We have scheduled work in the coming months with Jane Jarrow (national postsecondary disability consultant; http://daisclasses.com/?page_id=42) to develop technical standards for our program and plan to invite others at Bard into this work. And we are developing short presentations in order to share the benefits of this work with some of our partner institutions across Bard’s international network of schools.
We thoroughly enjoyed working with and learning from this gifted team of experts, who always took special care to let us know how highly they regarded our efforts and accomplishments. That meant a great deal to us, and we thank you for your time, energy, and devotion to this work.
Are you interested in learning more about how you can help teachers and/or college students learn to be more self-determined? Check out our 2BSD resources page or send a note to firstname.lastname@example.org.