In Through the Fire – From Intake to Credential: Teacher Candidates Share Their Experiences through Narrative, the authors of this volume have created an important opportunity and space for future educators to share their experiences of navigating the often treacherous terrains of teacher preparation and credentialing. Future teachers are typically the passive objects, not the agentive subjects and participants, of immense amounts of research and practice-based change or reform endeavors related to U.S. public schooling and the importance of teacher quality and teacher preparation for multicultural and equitable educational outcomes and opportunities for all learners. It is rare to have the opportunity to explore the preparation of future teachers from the perspective of future teachers themselves. Since there is no teacher preparation process without future teachers to prepare, teacher candidates and their experiences in teacher education are central to any understanding of how individuals become effective teachers in today’s socially diverse classrooms and how to best go about improving contemporary teacher education toward equitable education for all.
By applying an auto-ethnographic approach in this volume to share and explore the experiences of prospective teachers as they navigate the preparation and credentialing processes of teacher education, we – as those who have gone before the future educators in this text and those who will come behind them, gain first hand insights from these young women and men about what it means and how to better prepare prospective educators to become a teacher against a backdrop of historical inequities in schooling and prepared for the multi-culturally diverse classrooms of today. Teacher educators, school and community leaders, and others committed to pushing toward more equitable social domains and forms of living and learning hence would do well to take up the opportunity provided in this text to learn from the narratives included in this volume and those of other teacher candidates; indeed, the narratives of teacher candidates herein and elsewhere are, in part, reflections of ourselves as teacher educators and evaluations of our work in teacher education and the professional preparation of those who will carry on our professions after us and for rising generations. What we as teacher educators teach, or think we are teaching, in teacher preparation courses may, or may not, be what prospective teachers are learning about being a teacher and successful teaching and learning for all learners, particularly those students historically underserved.
Each of the prospective educators who share their narratives in this volume are striving to become critical educators capable of promoting equitable educational and social opportunities, outcomes, and experiences for all learners. While their journeys are each distinctive and unique to them personally, the teacher candidates who share their narratives in this volume highlight some of the challenges and opportunities they have encountered in teacher preparation courses to learn about the functioning of social structures that sustain society’s existing hierarchies and develop the skills and knowledge requisite to identify, implement, and assess critical learning strategies aimed at challenging inequities and promoting more inclusive forms of education. Specifically, these future teachers included in this volume are sharing with us, their readers, their attempts at learning to unhook from Whiteness and to disrupt the pernicious and historical school-to-prison pipeline that has long existed in the US between the nation’s prison system and schools serving learners and their families and communities identified as racially not White, economically poor, and otherwise not members of the White, middle-class, primary English speaking, heterosexual, patriarchal mainstream.
Importantly, it is because of the directness and frank honesty of the future teachers who share their narratives in this volume that we as readers are able to witness their failures and accomplishments in learning to unhook from Whiteness and disrupt the school-to-prison pipeline in today’s US public schools. If, for instance, future teachers view themselves and the children and youth of color they work with as individuals isolated from historical context, rather than as members of differentially positioned groups whose lives and opportunities are unequally structured by the historical privileging of traits, values, histories, accomplishments, and interests of Whites, then their teaching practices are not likely to challenge or transform the factors that function in schools and elsewhere to maintain the continued racial dominance of Whites. These understandings carried within the prospective teachers’ narratives thus highlight points of potential engagement needed to push toward increasing the capacity of teacher preparation realize educational equity for all.
Like myself, readers will find it an honor and appreciate the opportunity to explore the narratives of the prospective educators who have contributed to this volume and opened themselves up to share their experiences and understandings of the teacher preparation and credentialing processes in their respective communities and institutions of higher education. The authors of this book have enabled us as readers to explore the viewpoints and understandings of the educators who will soon be taking on the precious task of educating our nation’s children and youth in our public schools; they help us to critically consider what the teacher candidates are telling us about the process of teacher preparation.
It is of the utmost importance that we in teacher education not fail in preparing all future teachers to successfully teach all students. With future educators goes our future in education and the educational future of so many children and youth dependent on quality schooling for opportunities in a society and world deeply structured by inequities of every kind. This volume highlights these connections between education and past, present, and future generations.