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The Teacher Development Continuum in the United States and China: Summary of a Workshop
riculum or approach, and then this is all new to you. What you have learned and the lessons you have designed may no longer be as valuable or as useful. That can be very disruptive.”
The cultural context also has an influence on teaching and learning. In the United States, teaching tends to be associated with individualistic, heroic images. “Successful teachers are charismatic, they have personalities, they are dedicated; on their own they are inspiring students. If you look at a movie, you never see teachers working together or talking to one another. They’re all with their students being inspirational.”
The teaching profession itself has a culture that emphasizes autonomy and privacy. “You are the king or queen of your classroom,” described Liu. “You have a right to organize it as you feel to fit your strengths and weaknesses.” The teaching profession traditionally has resisted outside intervention from administrators and the state, though that tradition is slowly changing.
Teaching also has a culture of egalitarianism that resists distinctions based on expertise and merit. “We all are the same and have equal status, equal pay, equal say, and equal rights to teach the way we prefer.” In addition, teaching has a culture of seniority. When distinctions are made between teachers, those distinctions are usually tied to seniority rather than other criteria.
These cultural aspects of teaching have kept the profession relatively unstratified in the United States. There is little differentiation in job descriptions or pay. To gain increased responsibility and salary, teachers traditionally have had to leave the classroom and go into administration, although there have been some roles, such as department chair, that have a history of permitting teachers to stay in the classroom and take advantage of their instructional expertise.
Early career teachers have limited opportunities for apprenticeships and few entry procedures, Liu explained. New teachers are expected to start on their first day and be ready to teach a full load. “In fact, sometimes they get the most challenging course assignments, the lowest tracked students, and multiple assignments rather than the easier ones you would think would be given to a novice.” This aspect of teaching also has been undergoing gradual change in some places as professional development programs and teacher residency programs have sought to provide a more gradual and graded entry into the profession and a longer-term novice experience.