Theory or Pratice?

The Secretary of Education has criticized most of the teacher training programs in colleges and universities. Arne Duncan calls for a drastic change in preparing teachers for actual classroom experience. As quoted in The New York Times, “By almost any standard, many if not most of the nation’s 1,450 schools, colleges and departments of education are doing a mediocre job of preparing teachers for the realities of the 21st-century classroom.” About half of the nation’s public school teachers have graduated from teachers’ colleges. He maintains that at least 60% of teachers with degrees from education colleges thought that they were not prepared to teach when they graduated. They expressed a desire for more practical experience.

I must agree. The least useful and most brain-numbing courses that I had to endure as an undergraduate were methodology courses that were required for state certification. (And the graduate coursework for administrative certification was even worse!) If teaching is ever to be considered a real profession, then the qualifications must increase, and the training and salaries need to be commensurate with those of highly trained professionals. Physicians must undergo years of residency before they can practice; lawyers must pass the bar exam, and certified public accountants need to perform well on qualifying exams. A first year teacher may enter a classroom full of surly teenagers armed with little more than a few methodology courses and three months’ worth of student teaching. That does not compute as a recipe for success.

Instead of burdening would-be teachers with busy-work like portfolio development, provide them with quality academic and practical classroom experience before they receive their diplomas and certifications. Expect that as undergraduates they will become experts in a certain subject rather than major in the nebulous realm of education. The old adage, “Those who can’t do-teach. Those who can’t teach, teach teachers” must disappear.

Provide future educators with at least a full year of student-teaching experience under the tutelage of a master teacher. Allow them to develop lesson plans and interact with students. Provide them with the guidance and experience that they need, and give them regular feedback. If they can’t pass those conditions, then they shouldn’t receive certification. And if they do enter the profession, provide merit pay. Perhaps then change will occur.

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