Teaching Teachers

I’ve been saddled with a lot of student teachers lately.  I say saddled, because it’s a hell of a job for virtually no pay, without any guidelines to speak of, and the terrible knowledge that you are the last stop before this person has a classroom of their own.  It’s a little daunting and for some reason, I’ve become the “go to guy” for the local college.

So, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the education of teachers.  I think my own education was poor and inadequate.  People often joke that in the first year, a teacher is thrown into the deep end of the pool and if they manage to keep their head above water, it’s a win.  If they manage to learn how to swim in the next few years, even better.  A large percentage find their way to the ladder and climb out.  (Kind of a long metaphor there, wasn’t it?)  I’ve been swimming now for a while and I’m still trying to learn some new techniques and examining my own style to see if it’s really working out.

If doctors were educated like teachers are, we’d be terrified to go to the doctor.  Can you imagine doctors going directly out of med school and into private practice where they would be observed two or three hours a year to see if they were doing everything right?  Doctors have the system worked out right by creating “teaching hospitals” where inexperienced doctors are working with more experienced doctors to try and help each other learn everything and become better at it before they move off to a private practice.

Isn’t teaching a private practice?  Most of the time, we are in a room completely unobserved by any other professionals.  If we are doing something wrong most of the time, no one but the students know it.  How often is the patient going to be believed if he complains about the doctor’s technique?

I’m not sure how this would work, but I think that teachers would be immensely better if they had a provisional time of 3-5 years after they graduate where they work with other experienced teachers while they hone their craft until they are given the go-ahead to go off on their own.  Obviously, this would strain schools because they would have to hire more teachers to be on staff.  It probably would never go over…but it works for doctors.

Shouldn’t it work for teachers?

I am the language lover and these are my thoughts.

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6 Comments

  1. gls said,

    May 10, 2009 at 5:35 pm

    Like most good ideas regarding education, this one will never be implemented because it would cost money.

    There is something of a middle ground to this suggestion. I recall standing in front of a group of high school juniors when I was student teaching, thinking, “What in the world do I do now?” I can’t even remember a specific situation, but it happened fairly frequently. It struck me then that student teaching should occur much earlier in the college career. I would have gotten much more out of the coursework if I’d had real-life situations to base my studies on. It all seems so abstract before you’re in a classroom. Perhaps break up the process: one grading period of student teaching, then education courses, then a second grading period.

  2. Scott Erb said,

    May 12, 2009 at 12:29 pm

    Yeah, we’d have to make education the same priority as health care. I teach at a university with a large education program. I had a discussion recently where someone said they are trying to get student teachers in the classroom earlier (not just their last semester). So that goes along with what ‘gls’ notes. Teaching about the methods of teaching purely in the abstract does seem a bit misguided.

  3. May 13, 2009 at 3:01 am

    In my area, teachers have a day of shadowing a teacher, then a practicum of 30-40 hours with a teacher, and then student teaching. In theory, this is a good idea, but the shadowing and practicum are not utilized to give the students a real taste of teaching. They mostly observe. As Scott said, “teaching about the methods of teaching purely in the abstract” is mostly a waste of time.

  4. renaissanceguy said,

    May 14, 2009 at 12:58 pm

    Very interesting post. Thanks for the honesty.

    Yes, new teachers need more time in an internship. Some schools do provide a mentor teacher for first-year teachers, which is a good idea. Still, I think more close supervision and guidance would be good.

    Of course, you are talking about something that would cost a lot more money. The public and the administrations would have to totally buy into the idea, and I doubt that they would.

  5. renaissanceguy said,

    May 15, 2009 at 1:31 pm

    I have given you a Kreativ Bloggers Award:

    http://renaissanceguy.wordpress.com/2009/05/15/kreativ-bloggers/

    Anyone who loves language and who teaches it deserves one.

  6. May 16, 2009 at 12:50 am

    Thanks, RG!


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