Tim Duggan Tells Teachers to Find Their Niche

Tim Duggan

Tim Duggan (Teacher Education Program, SST credential '84, UCSB BA English '83) is an Associate Professor in the College of Education at Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago, and serves as coordinator for NEIU's partnership with Amundsen High School. He has taught English at both the high school and college levels and has served as the Director of Education and Outreach for the Nebraska Shakespeare Festival in Omaha, NE, where he managed and performed in a traveling company. He has published teaching guides for Hamlet and Julius Caesar with Prufrock Press. His latest guide for Lord of the Flies was published in 2013. Tim received his M.A. in English from the University of Nebraska, and his Ed.D in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of South Dakota. He recently responded to a series of email questions.

GGSE: Although you've earned both an MA in English and an Ed.D. since getting your single subject certification at UCSB, how did your time here influence all you've done since? (I know you got you're BA here too.)

Duggan: My time at UCSB influenced me tremendously. One of the reasons I recently visited campus and the community was to reconnect with several faculty in the English Department. I consider these professors to be my greatest mentors. I was pushed to achieve more than I thought I could while here, and following my graduate year in the Gevirtz School of Education, I felt like I was very well prepared to begin my teaching career. It’s not a coincidence that after I went through the Single Subject Teaching Credential Program, I went on to win a Sallie Mae Teaching Award following my first year of teaching.

GGSE: How have things changed in the teaching of writing, your main area of interest, in the decades you've been teaching? I imagine just the changes with technology have hugely altered things.

Duggan: The teaching of writing has changed significantly with the development of digital technologies, email, web-based formats, multi-media texts, and social media, such as Twitter, Facebook, and texting. People are doing more writing, but in smaller units. The long form composition is still very important as a way to teach people to sustain a topic and a line of thought over an extended period of time, and to gain deep knowledge of a chosen subject. That being said, we have a responsibility to teach our children how to negotiate and mediate the formats and media that saturate their lives.

GGSE: What's your quick take on the Common Core?

Duggan: The Common Core is problematic in many ways, particularly in how it is assessed in school districts, but as a set of statements about what competencies children should gain through their time in school, it is not any worse than the various state standards it replaced. Many educators have succeeded in creating innovative ways to address the Common Core without compromising their own principles of teaching for competency, equity, and justice. The problem that we haven’t solved is the disconnect between the standards as a set of statements on deep learning and the standardized assessments developed by corporations that dominate accountability measures in many states.

GGSE: Do you have any general advice for those entering the teaching profession today?

Duggan: Despite the negative press about teachers, the pressures on public education, and the challenges facing youth, teaching is still a great profession that makes a vital contribution to society. Find a way early on to strike a balance between the demands of the job and your own pursuit of a happy, healthy life. These two elements are not mutually exclusive. Many young people enter teaching, as I did, with high ideals and lots of energy, only to find it compromised by the realities of school and the massive workload. Remember that you are designing a life that has teaching as the occupational component. It is an important component of that life, but never the only component. Find time for family, friendships, and personal development.

I’d also encourage new teachers to find a niche for themselves inside the school, a way that they can contribute to the life of the school using their own unique talents. For some it may be coaching, for others, advising particular clubs or starting new programs. Whatever the case, find a way that you can use your particular skill set to address an unmet need in the school.