January 2012 Archives

Roundup Post: Changing Teacher Prep

By guest blogger Leanne Link, communications assistant at the Center for Teaching Quality This month's bloggers shared many ideas about how to improve teacher preparation programs. Looking for a quick recap? Below are some of the top suggestions that came out of the Roundtable discussion: • Increase Field Experience: The sooner preservice teachers can start teaching, the better, writes Megan Allen. And Dan Brown, Anna Martin, Kate Mulcahy, and Ilana Garon agree that preservice teachers need at least a year in the field before they take charge of their own classrooms. • Emphasize Mentoring: Never underestimate the power of one-on-one relationships, says ...


Prepare Teachers to Think Critically, Act Wisely

Ariel Sacks There are some crazy practices out there in schools—these days the craziest include things like hours of test prep being called "English class" and no social studies or science education. Sounds sensationalist, but that's still a true story in schools all over the country. It is easy to lose your way in an educational landscape where people who don't understand how kids learn are writing policies. Teachers can't assume that what they're being told to do necessarily makes any sense. They therefore need to be prepared to think critically about practices they are asked to adopt that...


Follow-Up: The Four-Letter Word That Can Help New Teachers

Kate Mulcahy It's a four-letter word, but it's what most teachers would say when asked to name the key factor in improving our profession: Time. We need more time to plan, learn, and collaborate, so that our time with students is more effective. And it shouldn't be surprising that (as my colleagues have stated in their responses below) preservice teachers need more guided time in classrooms. Ideally, a new teacher should develop her own craft under the guidance of a mentor. As policy expert Dana Barlin states, "One of a mentor's chief jobs is to help a new teacher close ...


Follow-Up: Utilizing Master Teachers

Anna Martin My colleagues and I seem to agree on the following: Creating opportunities for master teachers to spend part of their day mentoring new teachers is a must. Post after post extolled the value of such a system. Such hybrid roles would spread teacher leadership, ensure a "quality teacher in every classroom" even for classes assigned "first-year" teachers, and reduce new teachers' workloads to provide more time for practice and acclimation before fully taking the reins of a classroom. (Again, I'd encourage all who care about this idea to take a look at the Bay Area New Millennium Initiative ...


Follow-Up: On Teaching Apprenticeships

Ilana Garon A common thread of this week's roundtable seems to be the importance of "fieldwork" to teacher prep—specifically, spending time in a classroom in an apprenticeship setting, and the mentoring of new teachers by more experienced ones. In many teacher prep programs, this all-too-critical step is lacking; as blogger Kate Mulcahy pointed out, one of the strengths of her program was a good balance of theory and practice, while many programs err on the side of theory with too little time spent in actual classrooms. My own program, NYC Teaching Fellows, required trainees to teach summer school for ...


Follow-Up: Start Teacher Salaries at $100,000

Linda Yaron If we are to achieve different results in America's classrooms, restructuring teacher preparation is essential. But the best structure in the world will be insufficient unless we attract a new generation of emerging talent to the profession. I believe there's an efficient and effective way to do this: Raise the starting teacher salary to $100,000. We invest time and money in the things that are important to us. If education is truly important, then we need to value teachers the way we value doctors, lawyers, celebrities, athletes, or countless other professionals. A New York Times article last ...


Follow-Up: Recommendations for a Fairytale Ending

Megan Allen In my last post, I shared a wish list for teacher-preparation programs, asking the "mirror, mirror, on the wall." The truth is, we can't wait for the mirror on the wall—we must act now. To that end, I'm working as Educator in Residence at the University of Central Florida this year, and I'm advocating publicly for specific changes to teacher preparation. We must think beyond the typical student-teaching requirement of only one semester. We must embrace residency models. Preservice teachers must have time to roll up their sleeves and practice the pedagogy that they've learned about, with...


Follow-Up: One-on-Ones Make All the Difference

Dan Brown Strong teachers aren't mass-produced. During my turbulent induction via the New York City Teaching Fellows, I ran straight from mornings observing summer school at the Bronx's P.S. 85 to four-hour "Fellow Advisory" afternoon sessions in a cramped elementary school classroom several stops away on the 4-train. The classroom, used primarily for 2nd graders, was built to handle about 25 2nd-grade-sized bodies. We were 35 adults. It was uncomfortable and by the end of the interminable scripted sessions on standards and benchmarks, we fled the place. I had no personal rapport with the facilitating "Fellow Advisor," an adjunct ...


Why I Loved My Residency Program

Kate Mulcahy When it comes to teacher-training options, I consider myself lucky because I graduated from the Boettcher Teachers Program. Below are my three "must haves" for teacher training that made my teacher residency program so successful, with a final suggestion for improvement included at the end: 1. High bar to get in: The process to get into Boettcher was difficult. I had to prove I had extensive experience working with kids, write countless essays, gather recommendation letters, and pass the GRE and Praxis, just to name a few steps. Once I passed the initial screening, I participated in a ...


Restructure Time to Transform Teacher Preparation

Linda Yaron Systems function as they are designed to function, whether by default or intentional design. In our current education system, one-quarter of students across America don't graduate on time—and that number is as high as 50 percent in urban areas. Almost half of teachers leave the profession within their first five years on the job. And about a third of the profession is expected to retire in the next five years. These numbers signal a powerful need and an opportunity to restructure the design of the education system, particularly in how we recruit, train, and retain educators, as well...


Teacher Preparation With Strings Attached

Ariel Sacks I'm certainly one of the lucky ones. I can proudly say that my teacher preparation included a strong background in developmental theory, curriculum design, and student-centered pedagogy at Bank Street College. I spent a year student teaching in both private and public schools under the mentorship of an experienced teacher; and through a partnership between my first school and Bank Street, I received continued mentorship through my first two years of teaching. Still, I found my first full-time teaching position in New York City startlingly separate from the world of Bank Street. In particular, I did not know ...


Dreaming of a Better Preparation Model

Anna Martin Every teacher, at some point, has the dream. The one where it's the first day of school and you're not ready, or the students won't listen, or you forgot to wear pants. That dream. I have had some version of this dream nearly every year before the first day of school. Even now, eight years later and National Board certified, I still have it occasionally. Inevitably, I wake up, go to school, and teach without the dreamed-about incidents coming to fruition. But I used to wonder if the dream was my psyche's punishment for beginning my teaching career ...


Time to Practice Is a Need, Not a Luxury

Dan Brown Before becoming a teacher straight out of NYU at 22, I'd enjoyed a successful career as a student. Recruited by Teach For America and the New York City Teaching Fellows, I was convinced that I had this school thing figured out. I joined the Teaching Fellows because they could guarantee me a placement in New York, and then embarked on a seven-week summer training prior to teaching a 4th grade homeroom at the Bronx's P.S. 85. That frenzied summer was a blur of mornings in summer school classes and afternoons of deciphering standards, writing lesson plans, and ...


Developing a 'Teaching Identity'

Ilana Garon During my "preservice training" the summer before I began teaching in the Bronx public high schools, one of my instructors, a decorated veteran teacher, advised me not to smile during my first month in the classroom. "At all?" I asked in disbelief. "Don't do it," he said. "You'll regret it." He explained that by smiling, I'd be showing weakness, which the kids would take as license to walk all over me. He further admonished that, even when I didn't actually know the answer to a question, it was imperative that I respond with a firm yes or no—"Are...


Living Happily Ever After

Megan Allen Mirror, mirror, on the wall, let's make some teacher-prep changes, good for all! If I were queen of the world (hey, a girl can dream, right?), these are the changes I'd make. Here's what the pixie dust would do as I wave my magic wand: 1. Have our most effective teachers teach our preservice teachers. It just makes sense, and our preservice teachers crave this kind of contact. A hybrid teaching role could split an effective teacher's time between a K-12 class and a preservice class. 2. Acknowledge that location matters. University classrooms are often beautiful spaces, but ...


The opinions expressed in Teaching Ahead: A Roundtable are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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