Message From the Dean: October 2013 - Part 1

Optimistic Opportunities

If you want something done, give it to a busy person. I have always bought into this adage; because the more I have to do, the more productive I am. I am also the person who goes to bed at 2 a.m. and wakes up at 6:30 a.m. As Clint Eastwood said, "I will rest when I am dead." So I am a bit maniacal with my schedule, the multiple tasks, the endless timelines, and deadlines. I think I get this from my mom because she did not believe in leisure time. When my brothers and sisters were sitting around, Mom would say, "If you do not have something to do, I can give you something to do." We had to hide out in order to find some rest time.


The trouble with this is that I create these big, hairy, audacious goals (bhags) as I set all of these balls juggling at the same time. Others look at this chaos and find it daunting. When I think of our strategic plan and our annual checklists, to view them in totality is indeed daunting. But if we chunk the initiatives, we may find the tasks more digestible. I was reminded of this when the checklist was rolled out in one department and there were grumblings about the variety, the directions, the number, and the intensity of the items on the checklist. A colleague then chunked the list and it became more manageable. This new list is now in the September 30, 2013, College of Education Faculty Meeting Google drive folder ( which you all have access to so that you can peruse at your leisure. You, too, may have to hide out to find leisure time.


I view all of the items on the list as optimistic opportunities that will indeed strengthen our programs. As a recent report stated, "too many educator preparation programs do not adequately train educators for the real-world challenges they will encounter in the classroom or for school districts’ hiring needs." I do not want us to become one of those programs. In order for us to maintain quality programs and to enhance their effectiveness, we must partake of these various opportunities.


The checklist simply lists the various tasks, but here are descriptors of some of the initiatives.


Back-to-School Project: This initiative will take place October 16 in the Cedar Valley high schools. Teams of legislators, secondary teacher educators, business people, and UNI liaisons will visit four area high schools for a half day and shadow a student in order to better inform participants about the rigor and relevance of high school course work and post-secondary readiness. After the shadowing, they will return to campus for lunch and a debriefing of their observations.


Professional Learning Communities (PLCs): All departments and divisions have been charged to create a PLC. Faculty members have been encouraged to create PLCs and to join others within or outside of their departments. Two PLCs are being incentivized and the invitations have been sent out to join. These PLCs are the Technology Integration Incentive Grant and the Cultural Competency Incentive Grant. Another PLC that will be starting soon is the Personalized/Individualized/Differentiated Curriculum PLC. Farah Kashef will be launching this PLC soon. The purpose of this PLC is to understand the similarities and differences between these instructional practices and how they operate in a competency-based, inquiry-based, problem-based, or project-based instructional arena. Lisa Frey Wilson from Grant Wood AEA will be our consultant for this professional learning community.


Council of the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP): This is the new accreditation council that combines the efforts of the National Council of the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) and the Teacher Education Accreditation Council (TEAC). I believe that in order for us to truly become premier, we must move beyond mere state approval and seek national accreditation. My analogy is that state approval is like a restaurant sanitation rating of an A, but national accreditation is akin to a food critic stating the restaurant is five star. I have attended a national CAEP Conference in order to investigate the new process. Before we make a decision about this, we will have open forums to discuss the possibilities and opportunities.


Year-long Student Teaching Pilot: A group of teacher education faculty are working on the request for application. The application is due December 2. Our application will be vetted against applications from Iowa State and the University of Iowa. A portion of a million dollars will be granted to us to implement the pilot and to provide feedback on its effectiveness. Our thoughts are to have three cohorts of student teachers in elementary, middle, and high schools placed in proximal urban, suburban, and rural locations. Our ambitions are great, but the details and deliverables are mammoth as we sort through the possibilities while writing this request.


School Improvement Network: The leadership team has been meeting since this summer with Joe Hitzeman, a representative from this company, to discuss the possibilities of investing in this product. The product will enable us to utilize a professional library of exceptional instructional videos showcasing the Common Core. We want to partner with Waterloo Schools in co-purchasing this product so that we can use it for preservice and inservice teachers. Joe presented at the Teacher Education faculty meeting on September 23 and will also present on September 30 at the College of Education faculty meeting. You will be given a password to the product so that you can peruse it and determine how you can best use it in your teaching. We will need your input to determine whether we should invest in this product in order to enhance our students' knowledge base about the Common Core.


Colleagues, these are just a few of the initiatives that are on our checklist. I hope that this chunking of some of the list will inform you and engender engagement. We have a plethora of optimistic opportunities. Do not become daunted, simply view the list as if you are eating an elephant. You know the joke, "How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time."

Bon Appetite


Dr. Dwight C. Watson, Dean

College of Education

University of Northern Iowa