In light of Mary Laura’s latest post, and the many recent recommendations by education researchers and state and national leaders (National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE), Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), Chiefs for Change (C4C), National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ), and Secretary Arne Duncan, just to name a few), it’s about time to have the conversation on teacher preparation. There are programs out there which are doing a fantastic job preparing teachers for the realities of the job. But I think we can all agree, that most teachers step inside their classroom the first day on the job and have absolutely no idea what they are doing.
I am often ashamed to admit that I graduated from a teacher prep program. Sometimes I think about lying and saying I was an English major instead of an English Education major. The smiles of my audience at hearing “English” usually turn to looks of puzzlement, or even frowns, at the second word. Why? Because, let’s be honest, no one has any respect for colleges of education.
Your average teacher prep program lets everybody in the door, regardless of merit, and lets almost anybody graduate, whether or not they should be inside a classroom. Everyone in college knows the education classes are easy (101 uses for Popsicle sticks ain’t that far off); instead of writing research papers and studying for exams, I spent my days creating seating charts and classroom rules.
I’ve frequently heard colleges of ed described as “cash cows” because they cost so little to run and are used to fund other, more expensive programs (think biology, engineering, and computer sciences). Therefore, it’s in the best interest of the university to flood the program with candidates, and push them through to the end.
At the extreme, there are essentially two schools of thought on the issue: 1) colleges of education are in dire need of reform, and that that reform IS possible, and 2) colleges of education are basically, well, worthless… and that their facilities on college campuses would be better off housing copy paper and office supplies.
In reality though, I think we have more than two options.
In Florida, as in many other states, an initial teacher preparation program is not the only pathway to teaching. Anyone with a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution can enroll in a teacher prep program at a community or state college before they enter the classroom. A third option, which more and more teacher candidates are taking advantage of, is alternative certification. Anyone with a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution may enroll in a competency-based program through their local school district after they have landed a teaching job. The benefit of both of these paths is that a teacher candidate can get his or her degree in a content area and gain much more subject-area expertise on the front end.
I spent two and half years preparing to teach through a respected university, while most of my coworkers spent a whopping ZERO days in preparation before the first day. I don’t think I fared any better than they did, and I don’t think any of us fared very well.
There is a lot of research and evidence out there that I’d like to share, but first I want your opinions.
Teachers, how were you prepared and was it helpful?
What do you think teachers today need to learn in the classroom?
Are there some things that just can’t be taught?
Let’s hear your thoughts!