Are you ready for this?
The teachers’ and administrators’ professions are positions that require years in college programs, hours of reading, writing papers, and time spent sitting through lectures. There are fieldwork observations to complete as well as student teaching or internships, depending on the certification; however, these hours are small in comparison to the theoretical work necessary to master by graduation. Throughout the process, future teachers and administrators are guided by professionals who may or may not have contemporary experience dealing with the practicalities of day-to-day life in a school setting, in the year 2010. Therefore, we would like to discuss the possibility of including something in the coursework for the teacher and administrators’ college curriculum... something we like to call: “Reality Check: What your role as teacher or administration REALLY looks like!”
There are certain aspects of a teacher and administrator’s career that are simply unaddressed in the college classroom setting. Some of these include learning how to set up a grade book, knowing how much homework or quizzes should count, how to write an IEP, how to respond to an angry parent, how to speak to your colleague who is not pulling their weight as a co-teacher, how to infuse Web 2.0 tools-- just to name a few! No training can fully prepare new teachers or administrators for all that may happen, but providing some guidance to help these new professionals handle the issues that may arise.
Some people may respond that it is the responsibility of the district or individual schools to offer the guidance for these new educators, including the mentership arrangement as required by NY state for permanent teacher certification. Our district provides a four day orientation for new teachers and a one day orientation for second and third year teachers. This orientation is designed to get the new teachers “up to speed” with the district’s vision, initiative, and policies. The teachers work closely with central office administrators, building administrators and union representatives. This effort has proven successful as new teachers have reported that they feel confident on their first day of school and comfortable in their buildings. They understand things they would not learn in college, for obvious reasons, such as how to enter attendance, set up a grade book, document discipline, locate resources on curriculum maps, design lesson plans and prepare for the formal observation process.
These items still do not address some of the issues, above, however. While some of the issues may be “common sense,” we are proposing that teachers and administrators should have more exposure to real-life settings where they can gain practical experience and apply that experience both in a hypothetical setting and a real school setting. Perhaps, for example, workshops could be offered in colleges where students are involved in role-playing, or replying to fictitious emails and phone calls where the players have to answer on-the-spot. In addition, districts could develop partnerships with colleges where real-life scenarios are recorded (keeping confidentiality in mind) so that prospective teachers and administrators become aware of existing issues and develop a tool box of possible solutions. Such scenarios could be recorded in a Wiki or on-line chat forum where the college students would have an opportunity to brainstorm and the professors would be able to offer feedback regarding their responses.
Schools today are focused on getting students “college ready.” Thus it is time for colleges to consider their role in getting students “job ready.” More exposure to job-like experiences will help familiarize new educators for their careers and, possibly, reduce the number of those who leave the field in their first few years.
Teresa Ivey and James Yap