is this program different than traditional graduate program?
Roger: "I think that the most valuable part of [the
program] is that this may be one of the first classes you've
been in where you actually share in each others' successes.
That makes you feel so good as you have had some part of discussing
their readings with them or provided other things to share in
their success. When you present your work, you have an audience
that is happy about what you have done, that is excited
about what you have done.... which creates a really nurturing
atmosphere as opposed to a competitive atmosphere in most traditional
programs. In this program people want other people to succeed."
Tracy: "And, our groups helped each other to find research.
If you see something [while researching] that relates to something
someone else is doing then you copy it off for them and get
it to them."
you went for National Board certification, did you find that
this program had prepared you for the challenge?
Karen: "Yes, it was a natural succession and I couldn't
have done this without [the LC program]. I was just telling
Alice this morning that there must be a higher success rate
[of achieving certification] for graduates of this program to
pass. I don't know how someone could do it without having been
in an LC because it's exactly the same. They teach you how to
write at the national board level. So, it's a natural step."
Alice: "It definitely helped as you've already gone
through your standards books. You've read the entries. A lot
of what I did in my capstone I was able to use."
did you do for your capstone?
"Okay. I was a 4th grade teacher at the time. My reading
program-- I wasn't really happy with it. I didn't like the fact
that I stood in front of the students and taught out of a basal
reading book written for 4th grade level when I had readers
at the 2nd grade level and the 8th grade level. So, guided reading
was something I had heard about from our reading coordinator.
I read a book about it but really didn't have an idea about
how to implement it as it was geared for early elementary students
and no one had really done it for upper elementary. So, I dove
in and with my district reading coordinators help, researching,
etc... I created a guided reading program for my 4th graders
where they read books at their level. I still taught out of
the basal but added guided reading as another component of my
"I implemented a 6 week course into the 4th graders'
curriculum on what it meant to have a learning difference. I
took all of my learning disabled students that year into a 4th
grade regular classroom where we did simulations on different
learning disability. So, we had the regular education kids working
on the simulations with the learning disabled kids. All of the
kids reflected on the experience. It was really interesting
because the regular kids were totally frustrated, they couldn't
stand it and my students were like "well, it's okay. It's
kind of the way it is." <laughs>
"My kids [prior to Alice doing the simulation] were
always asking, "Why don't they have to do it? Why do they
get to take the test differently? Why do they get to leave the
room? So, she helped my regular classroom students understand
differences and that we all learn differently."
Gary: "[My capstone] was on assessment and grading
in instrumental music. As a teacher in the arts sometimes it’s
hard to transfer what they're learning into a letter grade,
especially when it is a performance-based activity. So, I did
some research and surveying of music educators and students
and came up with some rubrics on what grading for me involves
and how I establish a grade. I still use it. I use it a lot!
As a matter of fact, I've presented [my capstone] a few times
to other music educators this past year."
What were the semester terms like?
How did they change throughout the program?
"I remember the first year as being the time we learned
about constructivism, brain research, ... diversity and ...
many different subjects. The second year was a lot of collaboration-
when you actually started to do a lot of the work and got feedback
from each other. So, the second year was much more difficult,
I thought, because that was when you had to output."
"I think though too that the difference in-group dynamics
changed the second year. You become close. You learn to trust
people a lot more. You'll form a bond different than the one
you have with your teachers in your school. You will have it
with each other and with us [former students]. You are doing
something that is hard yet extremely rewarding when you look
back. You didn't just pay- you earned your degree. And, you
will look back and know that you learned while doing it. You
know, when I look back I can't think of anything I did over
the two years where I thought, 'I just have to get through this.'
Ah, I recognize more and more [what I learned] as I went [through
have you changed because of the program?
Karen: "Well, [before] I just did my job and went home!
<laughs> But now, everything I do I look at differently
and wonder 'is this the best thing I can do here?' You don't
think that you change but you do- you just look at everything
from a new perspective."
Alice: "Honest? "Do you want honest? <laughter>
When I first started the program, my goal was pretty much financial.
That was my big goal and I joined for financial reasons. But
in doing the program, I found out it was so much more than that.
That's what everybody [former students queried] said and it
really was so true. When you're done, the camaraderie that you
had with the group is strong-- and all of the things you learned
are good teaching practices for ALL kids. That's what really
came out... not just for Gary's high school band or just for
elementary kids, but ALL kids. I was worried because I was so
specialized with my kids in special education. I think I question
now "why am I doing this?" and I question other teachers
"why are you making this child memorize the states and
capitals?" You really question why do we have children
do some of these things. Is it valuable? I learned to get away
from a lot of the rote if I couldn't identify the purpose or
see the benefit to the individual child."
Gary: "For me, when I first got into the program I
think it was for financial reasons too. We were on the bottom
of the pay scale and hadn't gotten raises in a while. [At the
time] I ran a significant summer program in instrumental music
too and so it was impossible for me to think I could even have
the time to begin work on a master’s degree. So, this
format kind of worked for me. That's why I got into it. However,
what I got out of it was... well, sometimes we get into a rut
and do the same thing over and over and over and over and it
doesn't change... For me, it really opened my eyes to research
and reading again. It forced me to read professional journals
again. And, I can't express enough the value of sharing my ideas
with the people in the program. I didn't have people at work
that I could bounce a band idea off of but having colleagues
in the program too opened a lot of doors for me to be able to
talk with other regular classroom teachers about ideas and share-
"WOW! You're doing that!" And, I've started doing
things in my classroom that I've never done before. Like, writing
and reading and ... other ... cool cross-curricular things that
have doubled, tripled and quadrupled in their impact [of student
Roger: "I think an additional benefit- and I know I
go off [subject] to do this- but I do think that this program
has an impact on the staff you work on or work with because
they see what you're doing. You know. You're not just talking
about it; you're bringing it into practice. You're bringing
things to them. And I think, you know, even if it's a tiny portion
for your own grade level or some member of your staff, I think
you do impact your staff when you go back."
Tracy: "I think it changed the way I learned in that
I'm a much more self-directed learner than I was before. The
capstone really helped me to implement more action research
in my classroom and I've done it every year since-- I don't
write it out like a capstone <laughs> but I do something
every year that is based in action research. And then, for my
teaching, I have a much better understanding of how children
learn now and why we teach the way we do and how to connect
your instruction to your students' interest and abilities and
your assessment and how it is all related."
did you make time for this? What suggestions do you have to
current students about how to organize their time to get the
work done in the program?
"I had a very dirty house!" <laughter>
"... yeah, I had this angora sweater that used to fit
me but since my husband did the laundry to help me out, it is
only this big! <laughter as she holds up hands to demonstrate
child sized sweater> Well, you have to set aside a certain
amount of time that you need to get your work done. You have
to make sure nobody will get in the way of that time. So, whatever
night it is- Sunday night for 4 hours- or whatever it is, no
one can interrupt."
"I had the luxury [of being in a group with] six of
us who were from late 40's and 50's [in age]. My youngest son
graduated from college the same day I graduated from Winona
State. So I didn't have to deal with that [young children at
home] and applaud anyone who has to balance their family life
with this program. I still had to put aside things in my own
life and would work mid-week. But, I found other time too. I
would work out for 30 minutes each morning on a recumbent bike.
I did 75% of my work, writing by hand-not on a computer, while
I was on the recumbent bike. I would sit there exercising and
work for a half hour. I would pick one thing to start working
on and if I didn't get it done- that was fine-I would know that
I could continue working on it the next morning. You have to
find time. And, it's interesting now <looks to others for
agreement> that I'm done I'm thinking "Where did I find
that time? Where did that time go!"
"I think I had the worst case scenario...so, if I could
do it then anyone can. I have four children, the oldest is 9
and the youngest is 2. My husband and I own a 2000 acre dairy
farm so I don't see the man spring, summer, fall...so I tell
everybody I'm a single mother. <laughs> I could cry 'cuz
I don't know how I did it. I don't know how I did it, but I
did it. I sat at my computer from 8-10 PM every night and that's
where I did the majority of my work. I was teaching full-time,
got my kids home, helped them with homework, got them to bed....
did my homework..... you can do it."
"Well, a lot of your reflecting can be done at school
too. For example, if you know that what your doing is something
you're going to put in an entry, then I would write it in my
notebook that I carried around (and still do) and write things
down what the kids said, observations, the instructions....
and then immediately afterwards... or soon afterwards... write
down your analysis of it and reflection of it and what I would
do differently next time."
"I know this is a step back to the previous question
but it relates to what we're talking about... When you're done,
I know you are going to take tremendous pride in what you have
accomplished. It's nothing anybody can take away from you. It
gave me confidence. I was a pretty confident person and teacher
but it gave me more confidence, I am extremely confident person
as I look back and think about what I did. It was hard to do.
I have my masters and I know I worked for it. I didn't just
put in time for little bits and periods and now it's 'no big
deal'... It [my masters degree] means a lot, I take pride in
all of the stuff that I did and how I involved I was [in the
kind of a teacher do you think you are now as compared to who
you were before the program?
"I had only been teaching for 5 years before I started
and I was a cookie cutter teacher where I just kind of looked
at the basals and decided what I was going to do based on the
textbook. Um, and now I look more at my students and what their
needs and interests are..."
"I became more aware. Have you had any speakers? <audience
responds 'yes'> In setting up your classroom environment,
now I look at my kids and see them squirming and worming and
say to myself 'oh, yeah...look at the way I've been talking'
and I can relate to them, you know. So I am a lot more aware
"A lot more of what I do now is based on research that
"I am no longer entirely based on the basal..."
"I teach science and I don't use my book anymore. My
students don't use the book. I mean I follow the curriculum
but I don't teach from the book. I feel better about my teaching
now. I feel like I do a much better job in many areas with a
lot more confidence in teaching. But I guess I felt best about
a compliment from my colleagues that they could see it[the difference]
in my teaching."
"I was reading through my reflections from when I was
in this program, I know-- that's really sad isn't it <laughs>--one
of the things I wrote down was 'I just wish I was confident
enough to have someone observe me while I was teaching where
I wouldn't worry about the way I was teaching and thinking about
the students.' It's SO happening! I am so much more confident
now because I know I am doing these things for a reason and
that they are good reasons because they are based in research."