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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 are they the best places to learn the craft of teaching? We need to be close to, if not inside, the labs where techniques will be applied: K-12 schools. Residency models are the way to go.

3. Let our preservice teachers roll up their sleeves early. The sooner they actually start working in real classrooms, the better. I would say from day one— and I'm not talking about their junior year.

4. Value the role of supervising teachers. How are we choosing them and supporting them in this integral role, particularly in this time of increased accountability?

5. We can't just wave goodbye at graduation and send new teachers on their way. We must blur the line between graduation and the first classroom, providing ample support in the beginning of a teacher's career.

6. Keep it real. Being an educator is a tough job. An amazing one, but a difficult one. We need to be honest with our preservice teachers, teaching them to embrace failure as a part of the job and to learn from their mistakes.

7. Regulate alternative routes. I'm coming clean here ... I am highly skeptical of alternative or short-cut certification routes. I do have alt-route colleagues who are great teachers, but they are also really smart, hard-working people who would succeed in anything.

8. Build an army of reflective practitioners. Preservice teachers must become familiar and comfortable with reflective practice, so increasing numbers of educators are open and honest about their teaching.

9. Model relationship-building (and allow opportunities for practice). Relationship-building is critical for motivating students. Refer to number 3.

10. Better prepare teachers to serve students with diverse-learning needs. I have heard this change championed time and time again. And we are moving towards inclusion models, so let's act quickly!

11. Use technology to enhance preservice coaching. Use Bluetooth, Skype, and avatar labs such as TeachLive to help preservice students get real-time feedback and practice behavior management.

12. Do it now. We must find a way to cut the bureaucracy and make changes that our students need, ASAP.

Let's make these changes soon—we owe it to the princes and princesses sitting in our classrooms and the heroes who will teach them in the future. It's not too late to live happily ever after, right?

Megan Allen, a National Board-certified teacher, was the 2010 Florida Teacher of the Year. She has taught for seven years, all at Title 1 schools, and now serves as the educator-in-residence at the University of Central Florida.

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