You’re getting it wrong.
We are at that time of year again…new teachers are coming out of college, degrees in hand, ready to conquer the world of education! These new teachers have spent years learning about content and educational theory and serving required practicums in real classrooms.
But they are graduating unprepared.
Even in my own education, I felt underprepared for the reality of day to day classroom instruction—and I graduated years ago. Why has nothing changed? Why is theoretical knowledge still valued more than practical application?
These new teachers are walking into interviews with portfolios that look like doctoral dissertations—200 pages of discourse around what they “believe” about education, based on what they’ve read from books.
These new teachers are walking into classrooms knowing next to nothing about classroom management, engagement, motivation, and professional collaboration.
They are in classrooms knowing that they have to teach a particular subject, but don’t have an inherent understanding of how standards are broken apart into content and skills—and furthermore, what authentic assessment around that content looks like. They may have been taught about the difference between types of assessments, there is very little formative assessment done to drive future instruction.
Now, I understand that teachers need a year or two, maybe three, to hone their craft, and that there is nothing like actually teaching to make one a better teacher. Mentoring programs and Staff Development opportunities are making things easier for new teachers, but shouldn’t colleges be paying attention to this as well?
As much as I see a need to disrupt the traditional educational model in K-12 classrooms to affect student learning and achievement; I see a greater need to disrupt the collegiate model:
* $20,000 and 160 traditional college credits doesn’t make a good teacher. Guided practice does.
* Requiring a 200 page portfolio for graduating Master’s candidates is just busywork. That time could be better spent implementing best practices and learning to be a reflective practitioner.
* Reading a book and writing a report about what you MIGHT do in a classroom around that particular theory is moot. Having honest discourse around practical experiences is WAY more valuable.
* Teaching teachers to collaborate from the moment they enter college programs is essential. The “Island Mentality” is unbelievably bad for kids and teachers. New teachers need to know how to connect to others, develop PLN’s, and work collectively to drive ongoing improvement and advancement of their craft.
* New teachers need to have a deep understanding of differentiated instruction BEFORE they enter a classroom. Likewise, they need an extensive toolbox of instructional methods that may include more traditional methods, but doesn’t rely on them.
Please forgive my rant. I’m just seeing the same things over and over again in new teachers and recent graduates from teacher prep programs. It’s time to disrupt the model and be honest about what really makes a good teacher. It’s time to use a critical eye and examine what real preparation is all about.