Sunday, October 24, 2010

Ideas for new Pre-service Teacher Education

Once a student is enrolled in a teacher education program, classroom experiences need to begin. The classroom observations/field experiences are not as beneficial as they could be. During my observations I had to complete as a pre-service teacher, I observed six different teachers in four different school districts. One of the observation locations had to be in a school of poverty or diversity. Sixteen hours does not give you a realistic view of a school. One positive to the observations was the opportunities to visit various schools and districts to see positives and negatives of each. The negative of observations (based on my experience and discussing with others): 1) very little interaction with students 2) a very short amount of time asking cooperating teacher questions 3) hours of time spent watching (lack of hands on) 4) a lot of experience grading the papers of the teacher you are observing.

So, how should classroom observations/field experiences be designed? First, observation placements should be a minimum of seven days. The first two days can be used for the teacher, pre-service teacher, and students to get acquainted and allow the pre-service teacher to observe basic classroom activities. The next two days, the pre-service teacher should be involved in the instructional process. On the 5th & 6th days the pre-service teacher should "be-in-charge" and "run" the classroom. Day 7 could be spent observing another teacher in the school building or reflect upon their teaching the day before. The cooperating teacher would be required to provide an accurate assessment of the pre-service teachers performance. Not the typical "you did great" or 10s on everything like I received most of the time. I knew I wasn't perfect, I'm not perfect now, I have a lot to learn and strive to get better every day.

Here is the proposed requirement for pre-service teachers:

Pre-service teachers would be required to complete a seven day observation period in four different schools, one being diverse, each semester of their final two years of teacher training. In addition to the required classroom observations, instead of a semester of student teaching, the pre-service teacher would be required to complete either a 12-week intensive of "student teaching" or 2- six week "student teaching" intensives. Pre-service teachers will be assigned to "student teach" in a school they have observed, so it isn't a completely new interaction between the pre-service teacher and the students. These are two suggestions I have for fixing the broken teacher training system. I'm not sure if these are the answers or even a step in the right direction. One thing is known for sure, right now we have a broken system and we need to find a way to fix it, instead of complain about it. There will be critics of any proposed changes. Currently, with the way things are, school administrators and teachers would be reluctant to give pre-service teachers this much time out of their school days. In the world of NCLB, schools feel the pressure of making AYP, so very little time is spent getting pre-service teachers adequately prepared.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Better Pre-Service Teacher Training

According to a report published in 2006 by Arthur Levine, "more than three out of five teachers surveyed said that their education school didn’t prepare them adequately for the "real-world" experience of teaching" (District Administrator, 2009). This finding is problematic, but very realistic. Unfortunately, I can honestly say that I wasn't adequately prepared for what I would face inside the classroom. I had an advantage that I worked as a substitute teacher as I went through the teacher certification process. I'm not sure anything can prepare you completely. As I reflect on my teacher education, it seems that most of it is focused on the "glories" or the successes that come with the profession. Without sounding negative, those are great things to focus on, but for a first-year teacher, the "fairy-tale" teaching experience probably doesn't exist. As stated above, I substitute taught for a year and a half, where I learned and developed skills that teacher-training programs cannot offer. Not that the observation time required was useless, but having control and being in charge of the classroom will give you a more realistic view of what a classroom is like. Our current system is broke. Thousands of teachers are leaving the education field with less than five years experience. A later blog will focus on a plan for pre-service teachers, as well as a plan of retaining effective teachers.