Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Re-Vamping Professional Preparation

There is a Knoxville Law School that has had very good results.

Education is ripe for change. The PACE program - an alternative-certification for teachers, that places those teachers in classrooms, earning money (same as a 1st year teacher) while taking coursework to certify them, is primarily used for secondary education - most of it in specialty areas having shortages of teachers - math, science, special ed.

When I was certified, my school made a big deal about the multiple opportunities for experience we would have. They amounted to school visits of several hours (I seem to recall 3-4 different schools were involved), a week-long visit to a single teacher, culminating in teaching a lesson, and student teaching.

That last experience was a disaster - my cooperating teacher was lazy, and told me to watch and prepare for the first 2 weeks. She then handed me the keys and attendance book, and walked out. She only returned for one class, in which she "observed" and filled out paperwork. Otherwise, I was on my own, sink or swim.

She "dinged" me when I refused to show up after my assignment was completed, to help her clean up her classroom and storage areas. I wouldn't have objected if I had been asked to do it, but I had no child care that day. She wrote in my evaluation that I "let my family responsibilities interfere with my work as a student teacher." I still can't think of her without getting pi$$ed.

Since then, as a teacher, I always went out of my way to help new teachers. In the last years before retirement, I served as an official mentor to several new teachers. The program that SC has at this time is pretty good, and makes retention rates better.

The bigger issue is: what does a teacher have to learn to be effective?

Education students spend a lot of time on theory, and very little on practical experience. What theory they cover is slanted towards Progressive-influenced aims. They could use more time on:

  • Classroom management - that's the sticking point for almost all struggling new teachers. A structured approach, such as Canter's Assertive Discipline - - would be beneficial.
  • Instruction on USEFUL technology - using online gradebooks/lesson planners, mastering the SmartBoard (there are two main types), training in using science lab equipment, including the high-tech probe systems -
  • Some introduction to more structured teaching methods, including:
All of the above, and an understanding of how disciplined analysis of classroom lessons to determine what is essential to know and how to teach it, combine to make some teachers far more effective than others. Even in schools with high numbers of low-income students, some teachers - and classes - stand out.

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