Regular news/updates from chair of Curriculum & Instruction department

(in reverse chronological order)


Loose ends for this Chair to tie up or to pass on
To tie up:
Faculty should send me their preferences for when and what they teach or else it will be the same times as this year and our best guess at which courses.

AFRs are going downstairs on Friday 1/26, so please!!! sign them or email your approval before then. Adding further materials is optional.

To pass on:
AFR & merit review process: I've looked at glitches in the process and compiled guidelines, indicating where I've inserted an idea of my own that needs discussion by the Personnel Committee before bring anything that needs a vote to the Department.

Proposed Job Description for Assistant Director of Teacher Preparation and Related Adjustments to Staff positions and Roles serving C&I and its Programs: Report submitted to the Dean in mid-December. He has been getting input from the downstairs staff and will make decisions in consultation with the staff and the incoming Chair. 
The preamble of my report noted that, in drafting the formal job description for a proposed "Director of Teacher Preparation" it seemed important to reduce the overlaps with the GenEd & SpEd program coordinators' responsibilities and to remove the potential for conflicts of authority between this staff position and the faculty coordinators. 
The possibility of a new position also warranted an assessment of the current staff support in relation to the needs for the Department as a whole. To this end I examined: the description of the position submitted in the budget proposal last spring; the range of the current staff roles (as described to me by the staff); the official job descriptions on file with HR; and the needs for administrative support identified by program coordinators and the C&I faculty. 
This assessment of needs has led to proposed adjustments to the roles of staff positions to better serve C&I and its programs... (Deciding to make such adjustments would be the province of the Dean. For more detail see the full document .

Kevin Ziomek is leaving his position in the Advising Office on February 2nd and moving to another department on campus. His efficient processing of queries from faculty and students will be sorely missed. But our best wishes for the new challanges that he finds.

Nina Greenwald will be on medical leave this spring, giving her more time to get back to full steam after some surgery this month. Peter Taylor will be acting CCT coordinator for the semester.

Good news from Bob McCulley: "I am very pleased to be able to report that ICI / NERCVE / UMass Foundation with the support of Institutional Advancement have been awarded a $40,700 from the Rhode Island Foundation to design and pilot an electronic mentorship environment for graduating vision students, and vision professionals throughout Rhode Island.  
As a pilot demonstration project, we are designing a model to meet the mentorship support needs of our graduating students as newly hired professionals across the six states extending our committment to the community. Successful implementation will hopefully further the finacial support of the six state Departments of Education for our efforts in low incidence teacher training and support."

Teacher Movies
"'Freedom Writers,' like all teacher movies this side of "The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie," is presented as a celebration of teaching, but its message is that poor students need only love, idealism and martyrdom.
I won't argue the need for more of the first two, but I'm always surprised at how, once a Ms. Gruwell wins over a class with clowning, tears, rewards and motivational speeches, there is nothing those kids can't do. It is as if all the previously insurmountable obstacles students face could be erased by a 10-minute pep talk or a fancy dinner. This trivializes not only the difficulties many real students must overcome, but also the hard-earned skill and tireless effort real teachers must use to help those students succeed..."
Tom Moore in NYTimes OpEd

Swimming monks
A mondegreen results from the creative reinterpretation of a phrase in order to make some sense of what one has in fact misheard. Some examples:
? Shirley, Good Mrs. Murphy shall follow me all the days of my life ("Surely goodness and mercy…" from Psalm 23)
? "blessed art thou, a monk swimming" (from the Hail Mary phrase "blessed art thou amongst women". A Monk Swimming is also the title of a Malachy McCourt memoir.)
? "Sixty-five roses" is a common mishearing of "cystic fibrosis"; this mishearing is intentionally used by people and organizations fighting this disease.
? "It's hard to wreck a nice beach" (This originates in a story, perhaps apocryphal, about one of the earliest speech recognition programs being presented, at a demo, with someone saying "It's hard to recognize speech" and producing that phrase as the output.


Graduate Studies
As of a week or so ago, there has been no decision regarding the reorganization of Graduate Studies.

Spring courses
Thurs 1/18 is the "kill date" for underenrolled courses. These courses are being watched, combined, or cancelled to maximize faculty member's time to move to a different assignment, if needed. If you see a problem and haven't heard from the program coordinators or the Chair, please be in touch asap.

Faculty who submitted AFRs should have signed (with or without adding additional material) by 1/18.

Office Hours for Chair: Thurs 1/18, Friday 1/26

Incoming Chair, Lisa Gonsalves has asked Peter Taylor to serve as a second Associate Chair (without a course load reduction) to help her with "loose ends and smooth transitions" (PT's words), aka:
Reimbursement issues
Post - tenure review for Denise Patmon
Getting C&I files organized
Continuing the Wiki
Convening the personnel committee

Needs Assessment related to New Teacher Prep Staff Position: No response from the Dean yet on this assessment or the accompanying proposals about staff support for C&I.

DOE Call Center for LIcensure Questions -- Pass the word to your students
Effective tomorrow, January 17th, the Call Center, 781-338-6600, will take calls from 9
a.m. to 7 p.m. every Wednesday. The Call Center is also open from 9 a.m. to
4:45 p.m. on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. The expanded hours will
remain in effect each Wednesday through June 20.
The Call Center is a resource for all educators to assist with their licensure questions. The expanded service is expected to greatly reduce wait times, and provide greater access to educators unable to resolve their licensure issues during traditional business hours.

Puzzle for the day: 
How much of the energy of the space shuttle goes to lifting the space shuttle to its orbital height compared to how much goes to getting it up to speed of moving around the earth every approx. 90 minutes? What do you think, even if you don't know the formulas for calculating this. 0.2% or 2% or 20% or 80%? (Answer and follow-up question [about the ideology of space flight] next news.)


Who's on first?
As Chair till 1/27 all schedule-related matters have to go through me to Rick Houser (taking Ann C's role) to Registrar. When I need to consult with Lisa, I certainly will, but it's counterproductive for both of us (and Rick H) to be asked to attend to the same details. It's more important for Lisa to be drafting the 07-08 Teacher Ed schedule proposal and arranging to fill in gaps in the Spr 07 schedule.

Does anyone have an unused USB mouse for a MAC?

New Year's resolution
Time to burn a CD backup of your work from last year.

Tip for dealing with incompletes
Get a stack of grade change forms. When you grant an incomplete, fill in all the information on the form and file it.
When you are ready to submit the grade change you can mail it to the program coordinator to sign and submit -- or, if that person delegates to the advising office during intersession, mail it to the advising office.
The deadline isn't so strict for grade change forms, but it's good to mail them in about the same time as the grade deadline.

Evaluation-related thoughts on Gerald Ford as a "healer"
Many pundits who criticized Ford for pardoning Nixon have come to agree that it was wise -- by saving the Nation from the distraction of a major trial, the Nation (or Ford) could move on. This is often described as helping the Nation's "heal." But viewing this from the point of view of evaluation aka data-driven adjustments to policy and practice (as we talk abut in education), it also meant that the full data about Nixon's admin would not be exposed to, digested by, and responded to the populace. Perhaps it would have been a "crisis" for the Nation, the electorate, and the Republican party to face these "data," but it could be also be argued that practising tough accountability in mid-70s may have prevented future crises. What theories do we have to help us think about the tension between moving forward and learning by reviewing whathas happened?         

On theorizing
From NY Times, Metropolitan Diary, 1/1/07:
"I was reading on a Brooklyn-bound subway when a group of fourth or fifth graders entered the car, accompanied by their teacher and some other adults. The children were obviously on their way back to school after completing a field trip. A gaggle of girls immediately commandeered a row of seats and bent their heads together conspiratorially.
When the teacher noticed this, she singled out one girl in the middle of the pack - apparently a ringleader. 'Melissa,' the teacher said sternly, 'haven't we talked about gossiping? Are you girls gossiping?'
'We're not gossiping,' Melissa shot back. 'We're theorizing.'"
Trudy Whitman


Change in Departmental leadership
The Dean has announced that he has chosen Lisa Gonsalves to take over from me as acting C&I Chair, effective 1/27/07. Some explanation/elaboration is warranted. 
At the end of November I wrote to the Dean:
"As you know from our conversations and emails this semester, I find chairing C&I under the current conditions to be quite a stressful experience. Because of the toll this has been taking on my other personal and professional responsibilities, I need to ask that you find a replacement for me as acting Chair...
"Naturally, I am concerned about the transition in departmental leadership, and, indeed, have held off making this request for some time. I plan to keep working on the many and varied tasks in my notebook and by 12/31 to have completed: the personnel reviews (except Denise Patmon's PMYR); my part in the AFR and salary anomaly review process; mid-year reports on each program's progress; a proposal for staff coverage of the administrative support needs of the programs and the Department; and a CD compilation of relevant files for my replacement. If that person so wishes, I could support them by continuing a number of administrative tasks..."

Obvious question, what made the job too stressful for me? As my note continued:
"I have been quite open with you and with C&I colleagues about the challenges and conditions for C&I (e.g., ) so I would prefer not to get drawn into rehearsing problems or into more personal aspects of what causes stress for me...."

Thanks for encouragement and appreciations along the way. And thanks also to Lisa for being willing to take on another role serving the Department.

Internal grant competitions, many have deadlines of 1/19/07. For more details:

Advice to all of us?
A CCT student, Kit Irwin, finished her pre-thesis research paper with advice that might fit for all of us: "In conclusion, my advice to other CCT students would be to look at the intersection of your interests for a project, take it as a good sign if the more you learn the less you seem to know, and to ask others for help."


Department meeting, 12/14
In attendance at some point: Brady, Colon, Dick, Ebe, Eisenkraft, Gonsalves, Kiang, Lo, Love, Mitchell, O'Malley, Patmon, Ribisi, Sevian, Taylor, Yaeger. (Apologies if I missed anyone.)

4-4.30: social -- thanks to Aralisa for arranging food and others for potluck contributions (and to Mary Brady for taking leftovers to a shelter)

4.30-5.45: Celebration of last year's achievements as represented in AFRs and other places. describes the rationale & format, but these "minutes" can't convey the experience.

5.45-6.30: Chair's state of the Department review and discussion.
Acknowledgements of more individual accomplishments: Brian Wright's imminent (and now successful) doctoral defense, Dennis Maxey's years of quite efficiency & effectiveness at the helm of Instructional Design (before taking up a job at a school in Mumbai), Frances Noone's departure from Fied Experiences (eventually perhaps to an economics degree).

Departmental accomplishments:
1. Collegial exchange -- some "no grouch" lunch dates happened and monthly lunch seminars (thanks to Steve R.)
2. Federalist structure established, with special thanks to Lisa and Gen Ed for organizing itself as a Program (a/a being equated with the Department)
3. Individual programs and tracks doing well in enrollments (altho': need to separate out the BTR track of GenEd to be sure; CCT has fewer admits matriculate than expected)
4. Transparency or visibility of operations, with the goals of: "less wondering, less fretting -> more attention for our important work); setting a basis of procedures for a future with no (or fewer) "special deals" (which lead to more fretting and less attention for our work); and learning/clarification for me (even when procedures on the wiki need more discussion before everyone buys in).
Q: Will C&I be successful? Nothing more to add at this stage to earlier accounts of what success entails and of the salient conditions.

Some things in process:
AFR comments ready Monday (12/18). [Some discussion ensued about criteria for rating AFRs and including reflections on teaching. Chair and personnel committee will be asked to compile a proposal for wider input.]
"Space" aka moving downstairs staff back up -- this is in Dean's hands; no reponse yet to the proposal from C&I.
Specification for a new staff position (originally framed by past and current Dean as a Director of Teacher Preparation) -- an assessment of overall admin needs of C&I programs has been submitted to Dean (after discussion with program coordinators), but given the sensitivity associated with any proposals about staffing, this won't be distributed yet -- not until Dean has responded.
Searches -- Denise Patmon let us know that some C&I applications coming in; more for assistant prof. position than for Chair. Search c'tee will meet as a whole. Dean's search firm met with various groups this week.

Dennis Maxey
Although we weren't able to do a departmental sendoff in person, he will be receiving a gift subscription to a highly-recommended Indian social affairs monthly (once we know his Mumbai address). And, if I can crib from Garrison Keilor (who might have cribbed from someone else) we might wish Dennis to:
"Be well, do good works, and stay in touch."

Question you might not have thought of:
"Can insects get fat?"
(From New Scientist magazine 16 Dec 2006)

A variant of "peace & goodwill" Holiday greetings from the end of García Marquez's Nobel acceptance speech in 1982 (my emphasis).
"[W]e, the inventors of tales, who will believe anything, feel entitled to believe that it is not yet too late to engage in the creation of the opposite utopia. A new and sweeping utopia of life, where no one will be able to decide for others how they die, where love will prove true and happiness be possible, and where the races condemned to one hundred years of solitude will have, at last and forever, a second opportunity on earth."


News from Dr. Wright
On Friday "at 5pm surrounded by my family and friends I officially became Dr. Brian L. Wright! The dissertation defense went very well! My committee signed my "Certificate of Fitness" certifying my having successfully passed the customary examination with the recommendation, therefore, that the degree be awarded under the usual conditions.
I offer a very special Thank you to the entire Department of C&I for their vote of confidence in me and investment in my work."
See attached photo and others at

Report on 12/14 Department meeting will come in next news.

AFRs ready for faculty review and signatures -- I have them in my office today; Aralisa will have them from Tuesday on.
Please review the summary/evaluation of the AFR subcommittee and of the chair.
If you want to add material or a response, please leave a post-it to that effect on the AFR.
Otherwise, please sign and date in the allotted place.
We will scan and email you the comments & signatures so you do not need make a copy of the comments - but you are welcome to if you return the pages immediately!!!
If you want to discuss the comments with me, please sign up for an appointment.

Update on the teachers' struggle in Oaxaca, which has broadened to a popular struggle and been responded to with state repression (from a UMB retired faculty member): .

Previous news (in case you missed them):


Department Meeting/ Holiday party, Thurs 12/14, 4-7. Part-timers welcome any time during the meeting period. Pot luck contributions welcome, but there'll be food & drink provided so don't turn yourself into a pretzel to bake.

Evaluation and exhilartion: An article brought to our attention by Peter Kiang,, affirms the idea that we celebrate some of our accomplishments at the Departmental meeting this week, as well providing impetus for further development of Guidelines for Preparing AFRs (see below).

Grades are due December 27

Please look for glitches in spring listings on WISER that concern you. Remember, all requests for changes need to go thru Chair-> Assistant Dean-> Registrar.
(As in "So this is good old Boston. The home of the bean and the cod.
Where the Lowells talk only to the Cabots. And the Cabots talk only to God.")

Guidelines for Teaching Assignments: In response to some questions about how Chairs make decisions about teaching assignments I have articulated the principles I have been using. One area that some of you want explicated is what counts as "expertise." Rather than dictate this ex-cathedra for all of C&I, I will ask each program to chew on that issue.

Guidelines for Preparing AFRs: I have compiled and repackaged guidelines previously expressed in updates from the Chair or emails to individual faculty members.

Deadlines to bring to the attention of your Students: 12/31 for registering for courses without paying $50 late fee; 2/5 for paying the Program fee without paying $50 late fee; 2/14 for applying for June 2007 or August 2007 graduation.

NEA Higher Education Conference March 2-4, 2007
"The Academy at Work" at the Hilton San Diego Resort (on Mission Bay) - San Diego, California. Register Online at
NEA's 24th annual higher education conference will explore external and internal pressures affecting higher education employees and the academy as a workplace, as well as celebrating the 150th anniversary of the founding of the National Education Association, and the rich heritage of higher education in the history of the NEA. Work for almost all Americans, including those on campus, has changed over the past decades. Full time tenure line faculty positions are being replaced by lower paying contingent positions, and staff work is being outsourced. Higher education is facing greater scrutiny about quality, accountability, and access at a time when public funding is decreasing, and these pressures are affecting all higher education employees.


Course evaluations forms must be picked up from Aralisa to be filled in by students during the last class.

Departmental meeting on Thursday 12/14 is also an End of year celebration -- please RSVP to if you can add, in pot luck style, to the food and refreshments. Place: W-4-148 (Old graduate student lounge).

Hannah Sevian received the UMass President's Award for Public Service today. Watch this spot for official announcement,, but note also that we learned from Hannah's acceptance speech that her life-long commitment to service almost led her to become a nun and to work with Mother Teresa. However, Mother Teresa directed her to use her science to help others so Chelsea High and then UMass got her instead! Good call MT. Congrats to HS.

Programs are preparing two-year schedules now. During January these will be used to formulate the 07-08 schedule. Please let program coordinators know your preferences for course assignments, times, rooms.

Further reflections from the Chair
Department Chairs should not expect everyone to be happy with their decisions. OK, but given that, what is important to me is that I can articulate equitable, transparent principles for decisions and actions in the Department and I avoid special deals while I am Chair. If these principles are not clear to you please let me know (or use the search box on the wiki where I have been posting various guidelines as need arises). If you think you have detected some inconsistency or shortcoming, please let me know (if you want, this can be done anonymously).
In this vein, see also recent additions, which include:
  • Avoid any action or email or wording that embarrasses anyone-It is usually possible to express what you would like without showing up a specific person for their shortcomings.
  • In emails, when the relevant information or the outcome you seek can be stated directly, don't add complexity by interpreting other people's motives or behavior.
  • Apologize "early and often" for mistakes and for any misunderstandings...
  • If an issue gets heated and feelings are hurt, but apologies are made and accepted, then faculty can move forward and continue to cooperate on the tasks of running a department.


Departmental meeting on Thurs 12/14 is also an End of year celebration -- please RSVP to if you can add, in pot luck style, to the food and refreshments. Place: W-4-148 (Old graduate student lounge). Provisional Agenda: 4-4.30: social; 4.30-5.15: celebration of last year's achievements as represented in AFRs and other places; 5.15-5.30: more eat/drink/social time (b/c there will inevitably those who cannot come at 4); 5.30-6: State of the Department review and discussion; 6-7: Farewell appreciations and other items to be added; more socializing; clean-up.

GCE Dean's search committee
Members from C&I: Jorgelina Abbate, Arthur Eisenkraft, Denise Patmon
Chair: Virginia Harvey (Counseling & School Psychology)
Please provide your 2c worth to these people, or to me (before 12/12 so I can advise the Search firm when it meets with Department chairs).

Reminder: to follow through on before Assistant Dean leaves (on 12/22): Please remind me of outstanding items.

General Teacher Education Portfolio reading day is upon us. GenEd faculty (and any volunteers from other programs) will be reading the portfolios on Monday December 11th from 9:00 to 5:00pm. (although it may not take that long since we only have about 28-30 students completing the practicum this semester). The portfolios will already have been read by the program supervisor. Each portfolio will need a second read, and if there is disagreement between the scores, it will need a third read. For those of you who are new to the process, we like to do the portfolio reading in one day. Please let Lisa Gonsalves know if you can join us on Portfolio reading day and if you cannot come for the whole time, please let us know what times you will be there so that we can plan for how long it might take.

AFR preparation guidelines
I have begun to collate the guidelines that I have sent in previous editions of News from the Chair and in personal correspondence to faculty after seeing the AFRs -- (At the moment these guidelines stand on my authority as Chair; eventually, I hope to have the Personnel C'tee refine them and submit them to the Department for suggested revisions.) I will be asking for some AFRs to be revised and resubmitted in light of these guidelines before I sign off on them -- stay tuned.

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