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.