Nozomi Inukai

Value Creation and Teacher Professional Development

When a seminar proves especially thought provoking, conversations among participants almost always carry on outside the official sessions. Those informal dialogues during breaks and meals are sometimes as engaging and inspiring as the formally organized part of the event. In particular, there are two conversations that I vividly recall from the Soka education seminar I participated in at the Ikeda Center in June.

During the seminar, Kendrick Johnson, a former school administrator who is currently conducting professional development for teachers and administrators in Chicago and the St. Louis area, stated that administrators must learn to see teachers from a process-oriented perspective, not a product-oriented perspective. Over lunch, we further explored the role of the administrator to foster value-creating teachers. In many schools today, teacher evaluation is often primarily tied to students’ test scores, while other forms of value that they might be creating in their classrooms get ignored. This includes the relational and community-building aspect of teaching, as well as helping students apply their knowledge in their own contexts.

What this means is that novice teachers who cannot produce quantifiable results right away are frequently replaced with new ones, before these novice teachers have even had a chance to grow as educators. Many professional development sessions also focus on delivering prescribed curriculum or behavior management plans that “work,” an approach that does not take into consideration the individual uniqueness of the teacher. Kendrick emphasized the role of administrators as educational leaders, supporting the growth of each teacher in the long term so that they might go on to make their own particular contributions to their school communities.

This resonated with me because as a first-year teacher I struggled in many areas, from managing the class to creating the curriculum. I had the good fortune to have an administrator who, for each problem that arose, brainstormed solutions with me without imposing her opinion on me or judging my worth. Dr. Jim Garrison, who listened to my conversation with Kendrick, pointed out that it would be fascinating for an administrator and a teacher to collaboratively explore their professional relationship from a Soka, value-creating perspective.

Inspired by these conversations, I started to think about the role of an administrator. What Kendrick, Dr. Garrison, and I were trying to get at, I believe, was the idea that administrators can and should provide in-service teacher education aimed at the holistic development of the teacher. This in-service teacher education should not be geared toward producing “highly-qualified teachers” defined by today’s standardization and accountability movement, as well as in pre-service teacher education that is increasingly regulated by content tests and edTPA. Instead, it should be rooted in dialogue between administrators and teachers to mutually explore the aim of education and the role of a teacher.

What might teacher education (both pre-service and in-service) look like from a Soka perspective? Makiguchi wrote in an essay titled “Critique of the Content of Teacher Education” (Makiguchi, 1981-1988, Vol. 9) that the purpose of teacher education is to raise people who can practice value-creating education with their students. Therefore, teacher education should explicitly teach the pedagogical knowledge to lead students through the steps of direct observation in their communities, apperception (learning) in the classroom, and then application (value creation) in their daily lives.

Makiguchi also argues that the role of principals is to guide in-service teachers to practice value-creating pedagogy with their students (Makiguchi, 1981-1988, Vol. 8). In other words, principals should be able to provide professional development to in-service teachers. Currently there is no research in the field of Soka studies that explicitly deals with teacher education or educational leadership, so I am working with my colleague to translate the above-mentioned essay by Makiguchi on teacher education. I believe that this is an important gap in the field that needs to be filled in order for the field of Soka studies to have a long-term positive effect on educational practices.

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Nozomi Inukai is a doctoral assistant and researcher at the Institute for Daisaku Ikeda Studies in Education at DePaul University, and an EdD student in Curriculum Studies at DePaul University.

 

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